Over the course of nine seasons and 2 feature films, The X-Files transcended its cult status, becoming a phenomenon and cultural touchstone. With a new series on the way, special agent Rick Shingler has accepted the assignment to rewatch the entire series from the beginning and provide detailed reports about his findings. Come with us now, as we explore the mysteries of the complete X-Files. The X-Files entered its seventh season on something of a sour note. During the break between seasons, it was reported that David Duchovny had entered into a contract dispute with the network over his share of the syndication rights from the show. The negotiations were not going well, and Duchovny was threatening to leave as soon as his contract ran out at the end of the season. Perhaps at least partially because of this development, Carter and Spotnitz approached this season as if it were going to be the end of the series. They were willing to play a little more fast and loose with risky storytelling approaches during this season than ever before. The mythology of the series was attended to, albeit sparsely and somewhat anti-climactically. Still, viewers finally get a definitive answer to the riddle of Samantha Mulder, so that’s something important. Despite a couple of clunker episodes, this season is still maintaining that old charm. S7E1: “The Sixth Extinction” (w: Chris Carter/d: Kim Manners)/S7E1: “The Sixth Extinction II: Amor Fati” (w: David Duchovny & Chris Carter/d: Michael Watkins) Amor Fati is a concept made prominent by Nietzsche in his collection of writings entitled The Gay Science. Translated from Latin, it can be interpreted as “love of one’s fate.” It’s the writer’s desired state to be able to embrace and fully accept those things that are unchangeable in life. Think of it as being a way to find the beauty in all the harsh realities of existence. Additionally significant to some of this episode’s content, The Gay Science was also the first time Nietzsche mused about the death of God. While Carter was writing the first part, Duchovny was writing the second part. To make things even more confusing, they went into production and shot the season’s third episode (“Hungry”) while these two episodes were still being scripted because of scheduling conflicts with Duchovny and Anderson who were each shooting features during the inter-season break. Carter looked at these two parts of the three-part story (the first being last season’s closer, “Biogenesis”) as the establishment of a new mythology for the agents to pursue. When we last left our intrepid agents, Mulder was locked up, screaming at the padded walls while Scully sat on an African beach with a UFO. Scully has been hard at work cataloguing and trying to decipher the markings on the hull of the ship. She is convinced that the key to unlocking Mulder’s mental state is to be found somewhere in these markings, as the rubbing from a fragment of the hull was seemingly the cause. While working one evening, she looks up to see a man standing at the entrance to the tent. He is extremely primitive-looking and vanishes as quickly as he appears. After fruitlessly pursuing her silent visitor, she returns to her tent to encounter a Biblical-level swarm of locusts. Back in DC, Skinner attempts to visit Mulder in the cuckoo’s nest. He enters the cell to try to speak with his agent, but Mulder attacks him. Orderlies pull Mulder off him, and Skinner leaves the cell. In the hallway, he finds shoved into his ripped shirt pocket a torn fragment of Mulder’s hospital gown with the words “help me” written on it. Scully is joined by Dr. Amina Ngebe. She was an associate of Dr. Merkmallen, the murdered biologist who set Mulder and Scully onto this case back in the previous season. She warns Scully to avoid talking to the locals about her mysterious visitor or the locusts, even though she worries that rumors are already spreading. While Scully and Ngebe work on the photographed survey of the ship in the tent later that day, one of the hired excavators is seriously injured when the ocean around the craft briefly begins to boil. Later that night, the ocean turns blood-red. Skinner goes to the hospital to check in on Mulder, but he’s so full of narcotics that he can’t really chat. He gestures for a pen and writes the name “Kritschgau” on Skinner’s hand. Michael Kritschgau is a former CIA agent who had once approached Mulder and Scully with information about the government’s human experimentation that was being covered with wild UFO abduction stories. Skinner locates Kritschgau and brings him to Mulder’s side. The former CIA man recognizes the symptoms and begins a regimen of treatment to try to slow down Mulder’s brain activity. The effect is that Mulder is able to communicate. Agent Fowley arrives with the doctor who has been treating Mulder. Mulder utilizes his brand new mind-reading abilities to let Skinner know that he understands Krycheck’s hold on him and to tell Fowley that she knows about her cigarette-smoking BFF. In Ivory Coast, Dr. Barnes has arrived on site with Scully and Dr. Ngebe. Dr. Barnes had murdered Dr. Merkmallen and stolen his findings, although Scully doesn’t realize it. As they work on deciphering the ship’s markings, Barnes becomes increasingly whack-a-doodle until reaching a point where he holds the other two doctors at machete-point to ensure they don’t escape to take credit for the findings. So far they have discovered passages from various religious texts as well as information about the human genome. With the discovery of the ship causing dead fish to resurrect, Barnes becomes sufficiently distracted for Scully to hit him with a chair, allowing her and Ngebe to escape. While they are driving away from the beach, Scully spots the elusive aboriginal man watching them. Scully plans to go back to Mulder’s side, and Ngebe plans to return to the excavation site with the authorities. Skinner and Kritschgau continue to perform secret tests on Mulder, who is responding well to the anti-seizure injections Kritschgau has been giving him. At least, until Fowley catches him with a syringe in his hand. At that moment, Mulder slips into a seizure. Dr. Barnes uses his driver as an unwilling guinea pig when he murders him, only to use the ship to resurrect his body. Unfortunately, the newly-resurrected man lashes out at his attacker cum savior and kills the doctor. Ngebe arrives at the site with the police, only to find Barnes’ dead body and the alien ship to be gone. Mulder’s mom, Teena visits her son in the hospital. While there, she meets with CSM who then administers a drug that cures Mulder’s paralysis resulting from his convulsions. CSM tells Mulder that he is his real father and takes him to the suburbs. During the drive, CSM explains that the ship fragment had awakened the dormant black oil in his system from his exposure in the Tunguska work camp years earlier. A confused Mulder gets out of the car and goes into a strange house. Inside, he has a conversation with Deep Throat, who claims to have faked his death in order to escape the Syndicate’s clutches and come to live in this neighborhood under a new identity. This is the same offer that is being extended to Mulder, including this house. Dutiful wife Agent Fowley, it would seem, is also part of the bargain. Meanwhile, Scully and Skinner are searching for the missing Mulder. Scully sees Teena Mulder talking to CSM on a security tape, but is unable to contact Mrs. Mulder. She receives an anonymous package containing a book of Native American lore, including a chapter about how one man will be able to prevent humanity’s doom. Grasping at straws, Scully visits Kritschgau, only to discover that he has hacked her computer and downloaded all her work on the African ship. She deletes all the files. Meanwhile, The Last Temptation of Mulder continues, as CSM and Fowley reunite Mulder with his sister Samantha. He continues to live in his own private Idaho, becoming a parent with Diana Fowley, then grandparents. Fowley dies, leaving him aging and alone. As his old and frail body betrays him, CSM remains an un-aging constant, talking him through all of his doubts and insecurities. As a dying Mulder rests in his bed, CSM opens the bedroom curtains to reveal an apocalyptic wasteland outside, ravaged by attacking alien ships. It’s all a dream. Mulder’s body is being held in a government lab while Fowley and CSM watch over him. Mulder is strapped onto a table where parts of his brain tissue are to be extracted and implanted into CSM’s own brain. CSM believes that the oil has infected parts of his brain, effectively transforming Mulder into a human/alien hybrid. And CSM wants some of that. It sort of appears CSM wants some of what Fowley’s selling as well, but that’s another story for another day. He believes that by implanting Mulder’s infected brain tissue into himself he will be able to survive the coming invasion. Meanwhile, Krychek has killed Kritschgau and burned all of his files. Who Krychek is working for now remains a matter of speculation. Scully, arriving at her apartment after being unable to find any leads on Mulder’s whereabouts, is surprised by Albert Hosteen, the WWII Navajo code talker she had last seen hovering on the verge of death as a result of cancer. He suggests she pray with him. She awakens later, alone, to find a security card slipped under the door of her apartment. She uses it to locate the now-empty facility where Mulder has been left on the operating table after what would appear to have been a successful surgery. A week later, Mulder is recovering from his surprise brain surgery. Scully breaks the news to him that Agent Fowley was found murdered. She suspects that Fowley was the one who supplied her with the Native American book and the security key card, although she can’t be sure. I’ll never fall in with those that insist on hating season seven of this show. I understand perfectly Carter’s imperative to establish a new rope on which to hang the series after the disintegration of the Syndicate and all that they stood for. I realize that our heroes need to tilt at new windmills. Heck, I can even say that I appreciate the ancient astronaut theory being woven into this show’s mythology. Lest we forget, Carter had planned to be happily churning out feature films at this point, but the network insisted that the series remain on their weekly lineup. This necessitated a great deal of flexing to his long-term plans for the show, I’m sure. Specifically regarding these two episodes, I find them somewhat lacking in action compared to other season openers, yet still quite engaging. The deterioration of Mulder’s mind, Scully’s attempts to decipher the Rosetta Ship on the coast of Africa while Biblical plagues bust their Old Testament move all around her, Skinner’s conflict of interest with his new controller… All good stuff. But here’s my only problem with this new mythology arc: the X-Files up to this point had been a show existing within its own time, always remaining contemporary to the world around it. It has always been a fight against the future. While this new line of questioning is an intriguing expansion of the established paradigm, I just can’t accept it as anything much more than a rhetorical nugget to mull over. It’s more of a concept than a story. We’ll just have to wait and see how this new information is applied to the embattled races of aliens fighting over our planet. Oh, yeah. That’s right. There are at least two alien races fighting over the colonization of Earth. Remember? I think that note card might have fallen off the writer’s room wall during the mad rush for doughnuts during the season seven writers’ summit. OK, maybe that’s not entirely fair. It seems that Krychek is playing out some sort of agenda that most likely is a path of resistance, but it’s not even remotely clear who he’s working for or with. He might be operating purely on his own, which begs quite a few questions. CSM and Agent Fowley certainly were taking measurable steps in their manipulation of Mulder, not to mention that uncomfortable CSM topless scene. Mulder’s ordeal seems to be setting the character up for some serious Christ-figuring in the near future, as CSM’s serpent leads Mulder’s Jesus through the desert to show him all the things an alternative path has to offer. But that’s in the future. For now, it seems clear that there was no Freaky Friday mind swap. The revelation that Mulder is some sort of experimental alien/human hybrid feels a little hard to swallow, but his absorption of the alien virus way back in season four was never fully dealt with, so this is not without precedent. It’s a bit of a paradigm shift, but a manageable one. In fact, it seems possible that all of the hybrid tissue was collected out of Mulder’s brain and was successfully extricated while he was on the operating table. For my money, the most damaging part of the latter half of this season opener is CSM’s assurance that he is Mulder’s father. I wanted so much for Mulder to take a deep breath, yell “NOOOOOOOOO!!!!”, then allow himself to drop through the chute at the bottom of Cloud City, there to hang one-handed to an antenna for dear life until Lando can circle back to pick him up. What was I talking about? It’s possible to dismiss this revelation as a part of Mulder’s vision, so we’re going to have to put that one on the rack to dry and try to forget about it for now. As much as I loved the visual impact of the alien ship and Scully’s character arc coming full circle so that she can truly stand beside her partner, not to mention the welcome blast from the past with Deep Throat and the reminder that the Samantha mystery is still dangling, this season opener felt like some wind has left the sails of the good ship X-Files. But, embracing the Nietzschean concept of amor fati, I embrace and even savor my fate as a faithful viewer, even in the wake of troubling possibilities. Where my fate as an X-Files viewer is concerned, you won’t catch this guy fighting the future. S7E3: “Hungry” (w: Vince Gilligan/d: Kim Manners) For this episode, Vince Gilligan tried to reverse the polarity by telling the story from the perspective of the monster du semaine. His hope was to paint a sympathetic enough portrait that the audience would be rooting for the brain-eating killer mutant by the end and hoping Mulder and Scully wouldn’t catch up to him. You know, sort of like when we would later cheer non-stop for the guy operating the portable meth lab and spiraling into increasingly violent, erratic behavior over five seasons’ worth of television. This approach was a convenient solution to a production issue. When it came time to begin shooting season seven, Duchovny and Anderson were still filming Return to Me and House of Mirth respectively, and their schedules only allowed them to be on set for a couple of days at a time. As a result, “Hungry” was filmed before the two-part season opener. At a fast food drive-thru in Costa Mesa, California, the pushiest stoner in the history of stoners demands to order food after the restaurant has closed. The employee on the intercom relents and asks him to pull around to the window, where the customer is dragged screaming out of his car and through the drive-thru window. The body is found in the next day with a hole through the forehead and the brain missing. A bloody Lucky Boy hamburger employee button is found with the body, which prompts Mulder and Scully to canvass the several dozen area locations of the fast food chain. Derwood Spinks, an employee at one of the locations, does not have his button. Upon discovering Spinks’ criminal record, Scully believes the case to be open and shut, but Mulder feels otherwise. Either way, they have to find harder evidence than a lack of flair to arrest Spinks. Another employee at the same location, Rob Roberts, goes back to his apartment. He seems to be suffering acute hunger pangs. Outside his building, he sees a man in a sedan keeping watch. He goes to confront him, but can’t help himself. He attacks and kills the stranger before feeding on the man’s brain. Spinks visits Roberts at his apartment the next day. Spinks has been fired from Lucky Boy for lying about his criminal record and lashes out at Roberts. He’s found a bottle of Roberts’ appetite suppressants with an incriminating bloody fingerprint on the lid and attempts to blackmail his former coworker. Roberts goes to Spinks’ apartment later to find the bottle, but Spinks comes home while he’s still there. Roberts confronts Spinks in his true monstrous form. His proboscis lashes out at Spinks’ forehead and kills him. Roberts’ hunger is satiated yet again. A counselor hired by Lucky Boy to talk with all of the company’s employees following the grisly death of the customer contacts Roberts. During the course of their conversation, Roberts admits to an eating disorder, and Dr. Rinehart is more than happy to recommend a local chapter of Overeaters Anonymous. Mulder and Scully visit Roberts at his home to inform him of Spinks’ disappearance. Mulder plays the bad cop card with impunity, stopping just short of calling Roberts a genetic mutant freak. At the OA meeting, Roberts gets up and speaks in great detail about the overwhelmingly tempting savory saltiness of his favorite delicacy. Afterward, he walks back to his apartment with his landlady, who was also in attendance at the meeting. Back at the building, he is overcome by his hunger and attacks the landlady. After disposing of her body in the building’s garbage can, he smashes up his own apartment before calling the agents. He tells them that Spinks had broken in the previous night swinging a baseball bat and accusing him of being the killer. Mulder shows Roberts a picture of the man who had been sitting in the car across the street, identifying him as a private investigator which had been hired by the landlady’s ex-husband to watch her. The PI has gone missing, as has the landlady. Dr. Rinehart arrives to see Rob packing to leave town. She tries to convince him to stay, and he reveals his true appearance to her. Instead of shrinking away in fright, she extends an understanding hand to him. Roberts is taken aback by this display of compassion. At that moment, Mulder and Scully burst into the apartment, having found the landlady’s body. Roberts charges at Mulder and is met with two gunshots to the chest. As he dies, he tells Dr. Rinehart that he “can’t be something he’s not”. Apart from the hook from the shift of perspective, this was a fairly pedestrian X-File. It’s written well, with appropriate humor and an acceptable level of X-Files-level ickiness. But the lack of explanation is somewhat frustrating. We usually at least get Scully explaining about what sort of enzymes would need to be lacking in a creature for it to crave human brains. Nothin’. Still, what it lacks in exposition it makes up for in characterization. Rob’s struggle with his hunger and self-loathing over his indulgences is respectful and well-handled. Rob may not be quite as sympathetic of a character as Gilligan set out to create, but it was a welcome diversion to catch a glimpse of the other side of an X-File investigation. S7E4: “Millennium” (w: Vince Gilligan & Frank Spotnitz/d: Thomas J. Wright) After the abrupt cancellation of Chris Carter’s second series, Millennium, it was decided that a proper sendoff was required to grant closure to the show’s loyal viewers. At the end of the series, former FBI profiler Frank Black had extricated his daughter from her school and gone on the run from the perceived threat of the Millennium Group, an organization of former FBI agents which had formed to essentially help stage the Biblical Apocalypse. Their work had already cost Frank the life of the mother of his child (not to mention the pigment in his hair), and he refused to let his daughter Jordan become another victim. If you’re a sharp-eyed viewer, you might catch 2012 Golden Globe nominee Octavia Spencer in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it role as a nurse at the hospital. In Tallahassee, Florida, a funeral is held for a former FBI agent who has recently committed suicide. During the services, a man named Mark Johnson approaches the widow to offer condolences. After the funeral home is closed, Johnson returns to relieve the dead man of some of his clothes and leave a cell phone inside the casket. While he does so, he mutters the words Jesus said to Mary and Martha after the death of their brother Lazarus. A week later, while Johnson sits near the man’s grave, his cell phone begins ringing. Picking up a shovel, he moves toward the new grave. Mulder and Scully are ordered onto the case. This man was the fourth former FBI agent in recent months to commit suicide, have his grave desecrated and body stolen. Skinner’s background checks on each of the men help him form the notion that these for former agents had become part of the Millennium group. He recommends Mulder and Scully seek out Frank Black for a consult on the case. Black has checked himself into an institution while fighting a custody battle with Jordan’s maternal grandparents over his suitability as a father. He refuses to involve himself in their case, but drops a clue that is cryptic enough that Mulder doesn’t catch it until much later. When Frank relents and agrees to help them, he explains that the four men had been members of the Millennium Group who volunteered to kill themselves in order to be resurrected as the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Meanwhile, Mark Johnson is changing a tire on his truck when a sheriff’s deputy stops to offer assistance. Smelling the corpse in the back, he tries to arrest Johnson but is attacked by the reanimated zombie emerging from the back of the truck. Mulder, humbled by Black’s superior profiling kung-fu, pursues some leads to find Johnson while Scully goes to morgue to examine the recently-killed deputy. Once at the morgue, she is attacked by the deputy’s reanimated corpse only to be rescued by none other than Mark Johnson, who shoots the zombie through the head. Later, Mulder arrives at Johnson’s house following Black’s profile. Inside, he finds himself locked in the basement with the four zombies destined fulfill the Millennium Group’s all-time favorite prophecies. He is able to keep them at bay with a well-placed circle of salt and even manages to shoot one of them in the head, but he is injured while defending himself. Frank arrives and traps Johnson before going into the basement to face the three remaining zombies, but his gun runs out of bullets after dispatching only two of them. Luckily, Scully arrives just in time to save Mulder and Frank from the remaining zombie. Later, at the hospital, Frank has decided to check himself out permanently. Scully escorts Franks daughter Jordan in to see him. Father and daughter leave just as Dick Clark begins counting down the last ten seconds of 1999 on the waiting room TV. Mulder and Scully ring in the year 2000 with a new year’s kiss. This is an excellent X-Files episode. Unfortunately, it’s also a disappointingly lukewarm sendoff for Millennium. Maybe that was the point. Y2K came and went without incident, despite the bell-ringing doomsayers’ predictions to the contrary. The Millennium Group, with all their cryptic machinations and Biblical prophecies, were seemingly blind to the passage from Matthew chapter 24. To wit: “…but of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only”. The Millennium Group was trying to manufacture their own Apocalypse, and it should have been Frank Black standing in the path of the Four Horsemen. Instead, the heavy lifting was done by a couple of unconventional FBI agents while Frank slunk around in the wings. Frank played his part in the proceedings, but Mulder and Scully were the active participants in this case. While I greatly enjoyed the Judeo-Christian zombification ritual as an X-File, the story would have been a little lightweight for even a midseason Millennium episode. For a post-cancellation wrap-up of an otherwise great show, it is nearly reprehensible. To have three seasons’ worth of unwrapping layers upon layers of conspiracy reduced to a single member of the group hashing out a singularly mundane plot to hatch the Four Zombies of the Apocalypse seemed like a betrayal of Frank Black’s work and sacrifices. For my money, I think I prefer to regard the recent Chris Carter-produced Millennium comic book miniseries from IDW, in which Frank Black and Mulder pursue Monty Propps in the present day as Frank Black’s official sendoff. Also, I think it bears mentioning that we did get that kiss. After all this time and so many near brushes, it came without preamble or angst. Like the arrival of the new millennium, when it came time for it, it just… happened. And the world didn’t end, did it? S7E5: “Rush” (w: David Amann/d: Robert Lieberman) By December of 1999, teen drama was dominating the television landscape. The WB Network alone seemed to be building its entire programming schedule around the advent of puberty and all it had to offer. Buffy, its spinoff Angel, Dawson’s Creek, and Charmed were parts of their weekly lineup. Over at Fox, Beverly Hills 90210 (for the first time) was still rolling decent ratings. ABC was airing Boy Meets World and Sabrina the Teenage Witch. Teenagers were everywhere. So it only seemed natural for the X-Files to take a swing on the zeitgeist and produce an episode that centered on a group of teenagers and the myriad changes plaguing their bodies. Outside of Pittsfield, Virginia three teens meet in a wooded area marked clearly with signs warning them against trespassing. A sheriff’s deputy arrives to routinely chase them away from the property. One of the boys, Tony, turns to face the deputy, but is surprised that his other two friends have disappeared. Moments later the deputy collapses, his face caved in with his own flashlight. The blow is so fierce that the deputy’s glasses are pushed through the back of his skull. Mulder and Scully are called in to help with the case because of the unusual circumstances of the deputy’s death. They question Tony, informing him that his fingerprints were on the flashlight, but he maintains that he did not kill the deputy (admit it: you sang the last part of that sentence in your head when you read it, didn’t you?). Mulder and Scully both agree that Tony is an unlikely suspect, but the sheriff does not share their uncertainty. They go to the local high school to speak with Tony’s two friends whom he said were in the woods with him. They find Max and Chastity. Max, as it turns out, is the sheriff’s son. The only thing we know about Chastity’s parents is that they were probably a little overly optimistic when they chose their daughter’s name. They inform the young couple that their friend is likely to go to jail on a murder charge. Later that day, the murder weapon mysteriously disappears from a guarded evidence locker. A review of the security tape reveals only an indistinct blur on a single frame of the tape. Further analysis reveals that this blur seems to be wearing the school colors. At the high school the next day, one of the teachers is attacked by an unseen force in the lunch room while Max looks on. Mulder develops a suspicion that Max has harnessed some sort of supernatural ability that allows him to move people and objects without touching them. Tony follows Chastity back out into the woods where she enters a cave. Inside, Tony steps into a shaft of light over a crack in the floor, resulting in the ability to increase his vibrational frequency to such a degree that he can move faster than the human eye can follow. But of course, Mulder has already figured out that super-speed is the explanation for the activities they are investigating. Max collapses and is taken to the hospital. He is diagnosed with extreme exhaustion, muscular tearing, several stress fractures, and what would appear to be withdrawal symptoms. All of them are a direct result of his speedster activities. Chastity helps him escape from the hospital and takes him back to the cave where he can regain his powers. Sheriff Harden searches his son’s room and finds the flashlight that was used as the murder weapon in the deputy’s death. Max comes home and attempts to kill his father, but there’s a new speedster in town. Tony jumps into the fray, stealing the sheriff’s gun even while helping to protect him from his deranged spawn. All three teens race back to the cave. Max wants to stop Tony from using the speed-granting properties of the light shaft lest it be possible to deplete the supply. Max uses his speed to retrieve his father’s gun from Tony, but Chastity decides to put an end to this whole thing and takes the gun from Max. She races around behind her boyfriend and fires a bullet into his back. It passes straight through and continues on a path across the room where Chastity races around and steps in front of it. Tony is treated in the hospital for minor complications from his brief experience with the speed rush granted by the cave’s unique geology. The next day, a crew from the city fills the cave with concrete. You know, these kids must never have seen Raiders of the Lost Ark. If they had, they would know that it’s never a good idea to step into a ray of light in the middle of a cave. Look at what happened to Satipo. You’d never catch me stepping into a ray of light like that. If I wanted super speed, I would pursue it the only reasonable way by standing next to a shelf full of chemicals beside an open window during a lightning storm. Unfortunately, this episode falls a little flat. Any hope of a scientific explanation is buried under a ton of concrete. None of the local characters are particularly likeable, and it becomes less and less distinct who the protagonists and antagonists are. Mulder and Scully are just swept up in the middle of the case, which goes unresolved and never really explained. It’s not a terrible way to spend an hour, but it’s hardly the best episode of this or any season of the show. S7E6: “The Goldberg Variation” (w: Jeffrey Bell/d: Thomas J. Wright) For the record, this episode has much more to do with cartoonist Rube Goldberg than it does harpsichordist Johann Gottlieb Goldberg. Just in case you were wondering. Although, while you’re reading this, there is a rather sublime recording of the Goldberg Variation for String Quartet recorded in Frankfurt in 2014 that’s well worth a listen. Again, just in case you’re interested. This episode is something of a rarity for this show. It’s a monster of the week episode with a happy ending. Sure, there are a few peppered here and there. I mean, the Great Mutato got front row tickets to Cher, you’ll remember. But by and large, the monsters meet with grisly endings. But then, most of the monsters aren’t as likable as Henry Weems. Weems would mark Willie Garson’s second appearance on the show, each time portraying different characters. The first was the third season episode “The Walk” in which he played the pivotal role of a VA hospital mail worker named Roach. Another notable performance in this episode is a pre-Even Stevens Shia LaBeouf as Henry Weems’ neighbor’s ailing child, Richie. In a smoky room in Chicago, Henry Weems stumbles his way through a high-stakes poker game with a local mobster. After raking in his $100,000 in winnings, Weems determines he has won enough and attempts to cash out. Boss Cutrona thinks otherwise. Believing this inept man to have cheated him somehow, he has his men throw him off the roof of the thirty story building. Weems falls, going through an open sidewalk access supply elevator. After a moment, he climbs out of the hatch and stumbles away uninjured. Two agents who are staking out Cutrona’s building witness the event, but don’t break their stakeout to pursue the unknown man. When they tell Mulder and Scully about it the next day, Mulder immediately sniffs invulnerability or at least a Wolverine-level healing factor in the air and determines to find the survivor. Investigating the hatch where he fell, Scully determines that he must have fallen on a fortuitously-placed bin full of dirty towels, which cushioned his fall. She believes their mystery fall guy to have merely been extremely lucky. They find Weems working as the super in his apartment building, where he also harbors a collection of homemade Rube Goldberg-style machines, displaying his fascination with cause-and-effect scenarios. They urge him to testify against Cutrona, but he declines. The agents leave Weems just as one of Cutrona’s men arrives to kill him. Outside the building, Mulder realizes that he left his car keys in the apartment and buzzes Henry to be let back in. The door buzzer startles the enforcer just as he fires his gun, setting off a chain reaction involving a lamp, the ironing board, the enforcer’s shoestring and the ceiling fan, all of which leaves Weems unharmed but the Curtrona’s hitman hanging dead from the fan. After Mulder and Scully burst into the apartment, Weems tells them about being the sole survivor of a plane crash ten years earlier while seated in seat 13 of flight number 7. Leaving the apartment, Mulder postulates about Weems’ superhuman fortune, Scully wonders aloud why he doesn’t just buy a lottery ticket. Overhearing this conversation, Weems takes the idea and goes to the corner store for a scratch-off ticket. He wins, but is discouraged when the shop owner tells him that the winnings will pay out over several years. He throws the ticket away, stating that he needs the money right away. Another customer snatches the ticket out of the trash and runs out into the street in a celebratory display of jaywalking. The passing truck that splatters the man all over the street seems unaware that it is playing a prototype for the opening scene of My Name is Earl. After speaking with the shop owner, Mulder pays another visit to Weems. While he’s there, another of Cutrona’s men arrives to shoot Henry. Unfortunately for the shooter, the bullet ricochets off of a pocketknife in Weems’ shirt pocket, grazes Mulder’s arm, and finds its way back to the gunman, killing him. While Mulder’s arm is being treated for the bullet wound, Weems admits that he’s trying to get enough money to pay for an operation for Richie, his neighbor’s sick son. Weems’ luck seems to change when he is hit by a car later that day and Cutrona kidnaps Richie’s mother in order to keep Weems from testifying against him. Weems offers himself to Cutrona in order to save Maggie, but Cutrona decides to kill them both. It turns out Weems’ luck is still with him, as Cutrona and his men are killed, leaving Maggie and Henry both unscathed. In an even more unexpected turn, Cutrona is listed as an organ donor and a perfect match to Richie. Jeffrey Bell wrote some really solid entries into this canon. In fact, I find this one to be spiritually reminiscent of his earlier “The Rain King,” if only for its conceit of ordinary people caught up in the effects of their unwanted supernatural abilities. Not to mention, Bell seems to have a particularly soft spot for a happy ending. I’m sure we could trace cinematic roots for the “man raises money so child can have operation” story back to Chaplin or even earlier. But that would seem dismissive of Bell’s deft handling of such a well-worn story. Henry Weems is likable and believable, in the same vein as Peter Boyle’s Clyde Bruckman or Vincent Schiavelli’s Lanny from “Humbug.” The story’s entire third act is a slow-moving Rube Goldberg device in itself, and is a perfect climax. The episode is light, sweet and airy with just enough of a quirky twist to remind us what makes an X-File an X-File. S7E7: “Orison” (w: Chip Johannessen/d: Rob Bowman) This was the follow-up episode we never knew we wanted. Donnie Pfaster, the uber-creepy death fetishist from the second season episode “Irresistable” makes his return (and then some) in this episode. Johannessen penned the episode, after serving as an executive producer for Millennium who wrote thirteen episodes of that show. It was originally conceived as the story of someone who could slow down time, but the producers decided it was an opportunity to reintroduce an earlier monster of the week. At a Minnesota prison, Donnie Pfaster is serving his time after being captured by Mulder and Scully several years earlier. In the prison workshop an inmate injures himself. The ensuing chaos shifts into slow-motion while Pfaster strolls out of the joint in full-motion. Once out, he seems ready to leap back into the pursuit of his two favorite hobbies: collecting samples of women’s hair and eating lady fingers (not the cookies). As Mulder and Scully take the lead in his apprehension, they learn that two other separate similar breakouts have occurred in separate prisons over the past few weeks. The common denominator for all three escapees is contact with the same prison chaplain. The federal marshals begin looking for Reverend Orison as well as Pfaster. They find both in a roadside diner, but Orison displays some persuasive powers and he and Pfaster are able to slip out of the diner. Donnie and his newly-found prostitute friend steal the reverend’s car. Pfaster runs Orison over in the parking lot before escaping. Showing Orison the remains of Pfaster’s last manicure project, Mulder and Scully accuse the reverend of helping release a monster back into the population. Orison claims that he is merely doing God’s divine work. They discover that the reverend has some sort of unusual condition which increases the flow of blood to his brain to triple that of a typical person. Mulder believes this blood flow allows the reverend to make terribly effective hypnotic commands. Orison hypnotizes the officer guarding him and escapes to track down Pfaster himself. He holds Pfaster at gunpoint and forces him to dig his own grave. But the serial killer turns the tables on the reverend when he morphs into a demonic entity and kills him. The agents find Orison buried in the grave intended for Pfaster. Pfaster attempts to complete five-year-old unfinished business by going to Scully’s place and waiting for her to come home. He overpowers her and prepares his rituals while keeping her locked up in a closet. At least, that’s where he thinks she is. While Scully struggles to free herself, Mulder bursts into the apartment and forces Pfaster to surrender. Scully emerges from the bedroom where she has slipped her bonds. Approaching Pfaster, she empties her pistol into the evil man. Later, she confesses to Mulder that she was unsure what had control of her when she pulled the trigger. Avid viewers might remember that during “Irrestistable”, Scully had a moment where she saw Pfaster as a demonic entity. At the time, it was easiest to dismiss her vision as a post-traumatic reaction to the threat he posed so soon after her abduction experience. But with the context of this episode, it becomes clear that Scully was merely exhibiting a bit of what Stephen King so famously dubbed “the ‘shining”. This episode has received criticism for what is perceived as a deviation of Scully’s character, but to this author’s mind, her execution of Pfaster is an act of defiance against what she is uniquely able to see as the manifestation of pure evil. More than Mulder’s instinctual correlative powers, Scully has come into her own as an investigator of unparalleled intuition. We’ll see it further explored over the course of this season, but it has reached the point where Scully barely needs Mulder’s analysis of the cases they are pursuing. Her seeming acceptance of the things that rise above her current scientific understanding is a giant leap forward for her pursuit of the larger truths of the X-Files. That’s going to come in handy next season when… Nah. Not gonna go there yet. S7E8: “The Amazing Maleeni” (w: Vince Gilligan & John Shiban & Frank Spotnitz/d: Thomas J. Wright This one is a tight little puzzle box of a mystery wrapped around a clever little caper. While the three writers listed above get credit for the episode, the conception was all Spotnitz. He had been looking for a way to put together an episode centered on a magician since joining the show during its second season. For this episode, real life stage magicians Ricky Jay and Jonathon Levit were cast. Jay was Spotnitz’ favorite magician and while getting him to consent to join the production was a daunting task, Spotnitz and Carter both pushed hard, eventually persuading him to make time in his schedule. A magician called the Amazing Maleeni performs his act on the Santa Monica pier, despite the incessant heckling of a member of his audience which we will learn is another magician by the name of Billy LaBonge. Maleeni ends his act by turning his head around a complete 360 degrees. Afterwards, while sitting in the driver’s seat of his van, his head falls off. Scully, in examining the body, determines that while the head was severed cleanly, the man had actually died of a heart attack long before. She finds signs that his body was kept in a refrigerator prior to its decapitation. Yet despite these facts, the manager of the carnival had spoken to Maleeni less than a minute before his head rolled off. LaBonge visits the shady Victor Alvarez, to whom Maleeni owed a significant amount of money. He tells the man that he’ll help him get his money if he’d be willing to help him with a trick. I hear Gob in my head saying “It’s an illusion; a trick is something a whore does for money”. Mulder and Scully find Maleeni’s twin brother, a banker named Albert. While Mulder is prepared to accuse the banker of performing his brother’s act, he is surprised to find that Albert had been in a car accident in Mexico resulting in the loss of both of his legs and the need to wear a neck brace. Alvarez is the next to visit Albert, declaring that his brother’s debt had become his responsibility upon his passing. LaBonge frames Alvarez for the robbery of an armored truck by drawing matching tattoos on his hands. Mulder discovers that Albert has been faking his amputee status and is in fact Maleeni, hiding as his dead brother in order to escape his debt to Alvarez. Maleeni is arrested. LaBonge is arrested while waving a gun and running down the street outside of Alvarez’ favorite hangout. To top it all off, Alvarez is arrested after his tattoos identify him as the man who attempted to rob the armored truck. The vault at the Albert’s bank is robbed. The money is found hidden in the ceiling above Alvarez’ bar, further incriminating him. Mulder figures out the two magicians’ plan. They had worked together to set their common enemy Alvarez up for a fall. They had escaped from their cells, robbed the bank, and returned before their cells could be checked the next morning. But in actuality, all of it had been a misdirection to distract everyone from the fraudulent electronic funds transfer they had performed by using Mulder’s thumbprint (acquired during a card trick) and badge number to gain federal access to the bank’s electronic system. Their case had been planned to be high profile enough to get the attention of the FBI so that they could carry out their plan. I love a good caper. Especially one with a clever twist. And the idea of street magicians using their skills to carry out such a plan is particularly entertaining. As much fun as it is, this episode just barely falls short of the quirky charm of “Humbug” or “Jose Chung’s From Outer Space.” Where’s Darin Morgan, anyway? Anderson said of the episode that it was sometimes difficult to remember that they were investigating a murder with the tongue-in-cheek dialogue. The mystery is complex and gratifying once it’s all laid out in classic locked-room detective fiction format. What makes this whole season so enjoyable is the fact that it has become entirely unencumbered by the mythology surrounding the Syndicate and the writers are able to pursue unique storytelling avenues for these self-contained episodes. See larger image X-files Season 7 From Scully discovering the alien spacecraft in “The Sixth Extinction” and Mulder’s own disappearance and Scully’s miraculous pregnancy in “Requiem”. New From: $15.98 USD In Stock Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.