Well gang, I'm absolutely stunned. Impressed. I just don't know what to say. I thought that SUZ was a brilliant episode--and it most definitely is. But Closure... this one has to be one of the most fabulous, wonderful, emotional episodes the X-Files has ever put out. It completely breaks my rating scale. It's beyond fantastic; I loved every minute of it.
Oh, and it's a good thing somebody warned me beforehand to have kleenex nearby. Damn right I needed it.
Well, first thing's first. Scully is right when she says that Mulder's wound never closed, never healed. The heavy, relentless burden of never knowing the truth about Samantha is something Mulder has carried around with him for 27 years. It's eaten at him, it's driven him, it's pushed him to the brink of insanity and back. Despite the time that has passed, the drive has never yeilded.
Yet even though he can't stop looking, in Closure, for the first time, we catch a very realistic glimpse of the toll the search has taken on him. As he pores feverishly through documents, looking for Sam's name, he is interupted by Scully. She tells him that she knows who he is really looking for. And Mulder doesn't deny it. In fact he adds, quite frankly, that after all this time, he just wants to find the truth. He just wants the search to be over.
And perhaps wishing doesn't always make it so. But in this case, it appears that Mulder need only say the words. As if in response to his plea, Harold Piller arrives, a psychic investigator who promises to help the agents find what they are looking for. Scully is naturally skeptical and heads back to Washington to pursue the case on her own. However Mulder remains with Piller, allowing the man to lead him further.
Just an aside. Piller is actually a very interesting character. Not only is he the vehicle that leads Mulder to the climax of his search, but by the end, he becomes Mulder's shadow; in his refusal to believe that his son is dead, and with his obsession to keep looking, Piller serves as a backward glance. He reminds us of what Mulder once was.
Piller does indeed become the vehicle for Mulder's closure. At April Base, Mulder finds evidence that young Samantha grew up alongside none other than Jeffery Spender.
Meanwhile, back in Washington, Scully has her first major encounter with CSM himself. Interestingly, she seems to display no fear. In fact she is rather stand-offish, demanding that he put out his cigarette, and telling him he's "sick"--sick of course being loaded with more than one meaning :-) CSM, however, is unphazed by Scully's remarks and simply tells her that Samantha is dead; Mulder's undying belief that she is alive only serves to give him hope--faith to keep looking (think End Game). But then CSM adds something rather interesting: that IT'S all over, and that he wants Mulder to end his search. This is an interesting point that I'll come back to in a minute :-)
Loaded with this information, and with the termination document signed by CGBS, Scully goes back to Mulder, and though it breaks her to tell him--as she openly admits--she implores him to believe that Sam is dead. Mulder becomes angry and pushes her aside; he's not yet ready to accept it. He speaks of the abduction and the conspiracy--and yes I will come back to this, too *G*--and he's not yet willing to let her go.
But the turning point in this one comes after the seance (who wants to play spin the bottle *G*), with the discovery of Samantha's diary, and Mulder's emotional reading of it. (And yes I absolutely needed my kleenex at this point... I don't think I need to elaborate. Beautiful scene *sniff*). Both Mulder and Scully are deeply affected by the contents of the entries; they're dazed. They return to their rooms, both shaken.
The final turning point in this ep comes with Scully's discovery of the hospital document. Now Mulder knows the truth is near; it's the end of the road, and he can feel it. The nurse confirms Mulder's beliefs. Samantha was in danger, and so she was taken as a walk-in. She was taken to a better place. And Mulder gets taken to that place, too. He gets to see that she's ok, which is really the answer he has been searching for all along. And finally knowing, Mulder is able to make peace with himself. His unrelenting search is over. As he tells Scully, he's free...
... and I think this is the beginning of the end.... *tears* I need my kleenex again :-)
Now, before I close off for the night, I would like to comment on the mythology in general. I know there was some fear that this "closure" storyline would entirely quash the underlying mythology of the show. Indeed, CSM himself states that it [the project; Purity Control] is all over, perhaps referring back to the events of last season's Two Fathers/One Son "full disclosure" mytharc--which I still say resolved virtually nothing *LOL* However that is another point entirely :-)
In my opinion, Closure hasn't tainted the mythology at all--in fact it has backed it up to an extent. Indeed, Samantha was still abducted, and still delivered into the hands of CSM and the Syndicate. And by her own admission, she was experiemented on--undoubtedly, these were the experiments WMM spoke of in the movie, conducted for the purpose of creating an alien-human hybrid, and using Sam as a primary subject. Only instead of living her life as a perpetual guinea pig and captive, she died during the height of the experimentation, allowing her soul a peace she did know for a large part of her life.
In addition, the nature of her abduction is left entirely open. Mulder still seems to believe that she was in fact abducted by aliens. Thus this aspect of the mythology has not be hindered, either.
But what about the the constant insistence on the part of the Syndicate that Sam was alive, thoughout the series? Just as CSM tells Scully, the belief served to give Mulder hope, a reason to continue his search. And we know from the movie that it was absolutely intended, on Bill Mulder's insistence, that Mulder look for the truth. Even the Syndicate itself was not entirely willing to stop him once and for all. Thus the idea gave him hope; a reason to keep looking.
Now I know what you're all saying: but what about all those "grown-up Samanathas" who have popped up on occasion? Well, the best theory I can come up with is that the Syndicate was successful in cloning her, and that the Sams we occasionally see are descended from her--hey, I don't think it's entirely far-fetched *LOL* We're told in End Game that they all came from one original...
Anyway, gang, that's about all I have to say for tonight. Once again, absolutely brilliant, wonderful, fantastic, incredible episode. I can't say that enough. This is the best of the best. I just might have a new favourite here.
Squall's Rating: 10
She was trying to take away your pain...
Oh dear. Well, before I begin, I have to say that I absolutely loved this episode. As many of you know, the character-angst ep genre is my personal favourite. And this one, my friends, is undoubtedly one of the best of the bunch. Hell, it's one of the best of the series! Hands down, it was brilliant. The subtle intensity, the acting, the camera shots... I honestly don't even think I can begin to do it justice.
As I usually do with mytharcs, I will refrain from delving into a lengthy mythology discussion until we have a few more of the facts. But, in all other regards, there is simply not enough that can be said about this episode. So, that said, let's begin :-)
Natuarally, since the ep is focused around Mulder, this would seem a logical theme for tonight. We see through the course of this episode that Mulder is essentially being ripped apart. He receives not one, but several emotional blows, each in succession rendering him increasingly vulnerable, and eventually leading to his emotional collapse in THE scene. Right from the outset, the very nature of the case is enough to put him on shaky ground. As in Paper Hearts, Mulder is basically walking around with his heart on his sleeve. He is sent reeling by the nature of the case, the all too apparent connections to his sister's own abduction. But also, as in Paper Hearts, we see Mulder beginning to doubt his beliefs. The new evidence in the case, coupled with the cryptic phone call Mulder receives from his mother at the hotel, Mulder begins to question the notion of alien abductions. Suddenly he is unsure. Suddenly the thought of finding the truth is almost too much to bear.
Scully of course recognizes Mulder's emotional vulnerability immediately. She's all too aware of the history. She warns him to step back. She scolds him when his emotions appear to cloud his judgement. Mulder, as usual, initially allows Scully's warnings to roll off his back. He accepts her concern, but he continues to pursue his own interests with his characteristic Mulder-defiance. Still, what is important is that Scully is basically "on" Mulder from the beginning. And this, of course, is signficant, because if its importance later on--but more on that in a minute :-)
As if old memories and shaken beliefs weren't enough for our G-man to bear, Mulder is dealt another sudden and unexpected blow in SUZ: the death of his mother. Fittingly, it is Scully who brings him the news. She is obviously devestated to be the bearer of the bad news, but in the longrun, we can be sure Mulder would much rather hear it from her than from anyone else.
What makes Mrs. Mulder's death so much harder to bear is the fact that it is an apparent suicide, and also, that Mulder knew his mother was trying to tell him something important, something vital, shortly before she died. Thus understandably, Mulder is in denial; he refuses to believe that his mother could have taken her own life. And he is desperate to prove this. Naturally, he turns to Scully to help him out. He needs her... to do the autopsy :-) Scully is of course reluctant because of the sensitivity of the issue, but she sees Mulder's desperation, and she simply cannot refuse. She can't say no to her friend.
Now, jumping ahead to the moment you've all been waiting for :-) THE scene. In my humble opinion, this is arguably one of the most powerful segments in X-Files history. It is powerful because it is subtle and intense at the same time, and evokes from the viewer a massive range of emotion. Obviously in this scene, there are several different factors at play. We know the truth that Mulder refuses to believe. And we know that Scully wishes to spare him from more pain, but at the same time, she knows the truth must be told. She owes it to him. Indeed, Mulder is in denial. But he trusts Scully, and he knows she wouldn't lie to him. Thus with her words, Mulder is forced to accept the painful truth about his mother's death. She killed herself; she died, as Scully suggests, in order to take away his pain. And this said, Scully tries to take away his :-)
What perhaps hits home most about this scene is the knowledge that, for the first time, Mulder is truly alone. Indeed, the only person in the world he has left is Scully. It is striking when you realize this, for you can expect that the bond between them now has reason to become even stronger.
Now, as for the events which transpired during this fateful night in Mulder's apartment? Well, let see... we have an emotionally-ravaged Mulder, and a Scully desperate to comfort and protect her friend... I know you guys want me to talk about this, but I think I've already said enough. Let your imagination go wild :-)
Now what *is* interesting, at least how I see it, is that Skinner does not even seem suprised to find Scully there the next morning. In fact he almost appears to expect it. Perhaps after working with the agents for 7 years, he knows where their true sentiments lie.
Now, just a little aside before I begin to wrap up. In order to gain a good understanding of just how much these events have truly affected Mulder, you need only look at his subsequent actions: he asks Skinner to take him off the case, even though he knows there are obvious truths waiting to be found. Despite everything that has happened to him, when has Mulder ever backed away from anything in his life? He's shaken, and this uncharacteristic response really shows it.
Now as this is quickly becoming an epic, I will wrap up :-) Again, I will discuss the mythology in detail next week, after I gain a better understanding of it myself :-) But I will ask the obvious questions: what did Mrs. Mulder take to the grave with her? And, is Samantha truly buried in that field?
Anyway, gang. I think I'm going to leave it there for this week. Like I said, I can't do this episode justice. There's just not enough I can say. It's simply fantastic, hands down. It would be an understatement to say that I eagerly await the conclusion.
Squall's Rating: 9
Lots and lots of snakes.
Well, I'm going to be honest with you from the outset. Though Signs & Wonders is definitely not the worst episode I've seen, I'm not about to afford it any undue credit, either. I admit that it would be a little unfair of me to simply toss it into the ranks of such disasterous episodes as Alpha, Travelers, or Terms of Endearment without further consideration, but at the same time it would be a little too generous to say that it is anything other than borderline.
Major complaints? Predictability tops the list. Though I cite the example of The Goldberg Variation to demonstrate that predictability is not always a negative trait when it comes to the X-Files, in the case of Signs & Wonders, it definitely hurts the episode. In this case, the writers seem to be relying on suspense as a means to fuel the episode along, given the fact that there would appear to be little else to carry it; for one thing, it is Mulder and Scully light. But when viewers have essentially pieced together the "whodunit" in the first 15 minutes, by the time the episode advances to its supposedly exciting climax, the general reaction is "big deal." Suspense does not even factor into the equation any more, and thus reveals a flaw in the episode itself.
Next, as stated, a major element is missing from the episode: the main characters, the dynamic duo, those two FBI geeks who are supposed to be the backbone of the show--well, perhaps they agents are present, but they certainly don't factor significantly into the plot. Sure, Mulder appears just in time to be attacked by writhing snakes. But at this point, given the fact that the agents have been virtual non-factors for the majority of the episode, this scene almost seems an afterthought--or worse, it almost undermines the intelligence of the fans. It's as if somebody said "Ooo, let's throw in a segment where snakes crawl all over Mulder so that fans can say, 'hey, remember the part where Mulder got bit by the snake? That was awesome.'" Ok. So maybe that's a tad cynical of me... sorry *giggle*
And another thing: if Mulder's attack was intended as a means to determine his "righteousness," where is the build up to this? With the exception of O'Connor's reminder to think with your heart instead of your head, the lead-in to Mulder's judgement is practically non-existent. And besides, when has Mulder ever been judged in such a way? Scully has, of course, but not Mulder. Within the context of Signs & Wonders, and even the series in general, there would seem no immediate or logical reasoning for Mulder's test. Therefore, Scully's comment at the end, where she suggests that Mulder has emerged victorious, would seem almost redundant. After all, we're not even exactly sure what this victory is (except to say that Mulder is a good person?).
And finally, I'm going to say that, all else considered, seeing a guy dancing around with girating snakes is almost comical. I don't know about you, but I'm willing to bet that this wasn't the intended effect to be conveyed.
But, as always, this episode does have its redeeming qualities, trivial as some of them may be. I have to say that I liked Scully's comebacker to Mulder in the following exchange:
Scully: Rattlesnakes and medieval visions of damnation. Well, I for one feel a whole lot closer to
Mulder: I don't know--when you get right down to it, is snake handling any harder to buy into than confessionals and communion wafers?
Scully: Or believing in flying saucers, for that matter.
I particularly like this line because it seems to follow the underlying theme of many past episodes: where Scully is the believer, Mulder becomes the skeptic. Often in the past it has been the case where Mulder almost trivializes Scully's beliefs. But with her subtle retort, she reminds him that while she might not share in them, she does not trivialize his.
Another classic moment from this episode was Scully's attempt to kick down the door in the church. Go Scully :-) Oh, and Mulder's new threads. Nice.
Oh, and one more thing. Did anybody else catch Mulder's innuendo about snake handling? :-)
Anyway, that's about all I have to say about this one. If you're going to kill me for my sarcasm, as a defence can I add that I haven't had a particularly good day? :-)
Squall's Rating: 3
Now you see it, now you don't.
Two magicians, an ex-bank robber, an old grudge, a gambling debt, a severed head, and a conspiracy. Only on the X-Files :-)
If I had to use one phrase to sum up tonight's episode, it would be off-beat. Though TAM deviates almost entirely from the classic X-Files formula, it is filled with tricks, subtle humour and unexpected twists; on the whole, it is not a bad episode.
The basic key of this ep is appearance versus reality. What makes for first impressions in TAM turn out, upon closer scrutiny, to be something else entirely. Maleeni's "murder" is not actually a murder. LaBonge's motives turn out to be much more angelic than the agents intially speculate. Pinchbeck is not an amputee. There's not really a bank robbery. And the length of Scully's hair is no longer a constant; it changes with every scene--even in the middle of the scene, as I noted on at least one occasion :-)
All in all, the underlying message of this ep can be expanded to fit the X-Files as a whole: nothing is what is seems. Be wary of deferrences and distractions, because the real truth might very well be under your nose.
What is interesting in this ep was Mulder and Scully's impromptu role as detectives (a la Kate Monday and George Frankly, for those of you who are familiar with the late 80s youth educational TV series Mathnet *giggle*). The agents are forced to piece together the events based on a bizarre ensemble of clues: a playing card, a paper cup, a faultly security video, a dented ceiling tile. And, like something out of Clue or Agatha Christie, they are able to reconstruct the crime... or, in this case, the lack thereof. Amazing :-)
As for Mulder and Scully interaction, it is subtle, but it's there. Again, as we have seen throughout this season, the agents are able to joke openly with one another. Mulder's frequent melting into laughter because much of the case strikes him as funny, his playful tweek of Scully's nose. And the Amazing Scullini's intriguing magic trick, which causes Mulder's curiousity to flare; a curiousity which is countered by well-timed defiance on Scully's part.
Once again, The Amazing Maleeni is not a bad ep. Not a classic at all, but worth a second look--especially because what you see the first time around might not be reality at all.
Squall's Rating: 6
Don't look any further...
Five years ago, the X-Files captivated viewers with sheer terror when death fetishist Donnie Pfaster first graced the screen. Tonight he returned again, his second coming marking a terror perhaps even greater than the first.
Irresistible has always been one of my favourite episodes. Though subtle and perhaps even simple in script and style, it is terrifying because of its realism, the potent reminder that the greatest monsters walk among us, unseen.
Orison, I am happy to say, equals the brilliance set by its earlier counterpart. Though it in many instances parallels its predecessor, it offers something untouched by the original: a deep and profound exploration of good, evil, faith, morals and religion.
The obvious focus of this episode is, of course, Scully. As Mulder points out, Pfaster affected her deeply, to an extent which Mulder himself had never witnessed before, and arguably, has never witnessed since. And, in keeping with Mulder's observation, Scully's scars are still openly visible years later.
Only it quickly becomes apparent that there is more going on here than simply "post traumatic stress." What occurs in Orison is another example of "the gift" which Scully seems to harbour, the hint of extra sensory--or, if preferred, God-given--power touched upon in episodes like Revelations, All Souls, and Tithonus.
In this case, what emerges is more an indication of a psychic ability: Pfaster's actions outside of Scully's normal sensory range are marked by the playing of the funk song, "Don't Look Any Further." His prison break, the striking down of the reverend, the murders of the girl and Orison, all coincide with the repetition of the song.
Scully, of course, is deeply troubled by the significance of the music. As a scientist, the events defy explanation. Once again her belief system is shaken, as she can offer no rational explanation for the string of occurances which are simply too uncanny to be attributed to coincidence alone. Scully is in fact so shaken by the ordeal that she opens up to Mulder, almost admitting to him that she feels she is having a psychic experience. Yet interestingly, as has been the case in the past, where Scully seems open to extreme possibilities, Mulder closes himself off; indeed, when Scully becomes the believer, Mulder becomes the skeptic.
Thus in keeping with this trend, Mulder is intially ready to dismiss Scully's claims. But it is only too soon that he can no longer deny the uncanny nature of the events. When he hears the song himself, he knows it is more than a coincidence. The song is an indication that something is terribly wrong.
Before going further, just a little aside about the song itself. Deconstructed, its meaning is actually two-fold. It marks Scully's psychic episodes, but if taken at face value, the title also serves as a message for her: don't look any further. But how are we to interpret this? Was it a message for Scully to stop, an imminent warning of the fate which would befall her if she kept going? Indeed, by continuing, she may have perhaps fallen unwillingly into Reverend Orison's legacy: Orison believed that his vocation was to lead prison inmates directly to God--lead them to God by taking their lives. But with the Reverend murdered before he could deliver Pfaster into heaven, was Scully selected to finish the job? Was she the messenger?
Just to diverge for a moment from the profound and extensive symbollism in this episode, let's take a look and the Mulder/Scully interaction. Of course Mulder is well-aware of the history behind this case. Irresistible marked the first time where Scully actually breaks down in front of Mulder, the first time Mulder is permitted to see Scully when she is truly afraid. The ep also brought them closer together, and brought the deepest aspects of their personalities to the forefront: Scully's need to appear strong in front of her partner, and Mulder's overwhelming sense of duty to protect Scully at all costs. Irresistible revealed a great deal about the two agents, and it is evident that neither one has forgotten in the time that has passed.
Naturally then, in Orison, the first thing that becomes apparent is Mulder's immediate concern for Scully. When the Marshall mentions their history with Pfaster, Mulder's first instinct is to glance at Scully. And it is more than just a glance. In the brief moment he is permitted to look at her before she returns his stare, his is studying her intently, trying to ascertain her emotions. We all know what he must be thinking. And later, when he pleads with her to leave, realizing that she must not have read through the case, and knowing that the mention of Pfaster must have come as the worst sort of surprise, we see elements of Mulder's underlying need to protect his partner.
Moreover, as mentioned previously, the two agents, Scully especially, discuss their feelings openly. First Scully reveals her possible psychic episode, and later at the end, when she leaves Mulder with the unanswerable question, why did I do what I did? All and all, a definite caring on the part of Mulder, and on Scully's part, the need to seek reassurance from him.
(oh and speaking of endings, believe me... I'm coming to the end soon! Sorry for the length gang. I know it's a bit of an epic *giggle*)
Ok... now before I lose all of you, I will skip ahead to the ending. There is further symbolism which could be discussed--mainly Donnie's appearance as the devil, a suggestion of evil personified, and something seen by Scully in Irresistible and the Reverend in Orison, and also marked by Scully's vision of the 666 in this ep; also Donnie's fixation on Scully, something which has been building for years because she was the one who eluded him--but I guess that sort of speaks for itself so I won't bore you with that :-)
So, then, the ending *giggle*
First of all, the ending to this episode is brilliantly shot. The slow motion segment is highly effective in that you are aware of what is going on, but at the same time, much is left to speculation and personal interpretation--interpretation is, of course, the take-away message of this entire episode. Indeed, Scully's final decision to shoot Pfaster leaves much room for interpretation. Was this vengeance for the pain and suffering he caused her? Self defense? The transference of Orison's legacy onto her person? The God-given instruction to kill Pfaster for the greater good of society? Or something deeper, as Scully painfully considers, the emergence of the hint of evil which may exist in all of us--did she defy the warning, only to look too far and find the devestating truth? Even Scully herself does not know. And Mulder, though wanting to provide insight and support, has nothing to offer. He seems as troubled by the prospect as Scully herself.
On the whole, Orison is an outstanding episode. Deeply profound and symbolic - perhaps one of the most symbolic of the entire series - and which leaves us with an ending as open as any X-File.
Squall's Rating: 8+
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