Field Report BRAND X 7X19

The Coprophages Strike Back...

Well, I had few expectations going in, and I have to say that I don't have too much to take away, except a mixed reaction. Brand X possesses a great concept, but in terms of delivery, this ep is lacking; it just can't seem to get off the ground.

Just to make myself perfectly clear from the outset, I'm not bashing this episode. On the contrary, there are many things I enjoyed about it. Firstly, I love the concept, the idea of deadly disgusting mutated airborne parasitic beetles--War of the Coprophages turned up a notch. Yes, the gross-out factor was great; I predict some wonderful dreams in my near future :-)
I also like the haunting overtones of the dangers of second-hand smoke. One more reason to quit the habit. In addition, bringing Skinner into the picture and allowing him to ride out the duration of the ep was also a great move. We haven't seen enough of the guy this season; I think I'm just now realizing that. Another point is the fact that this ep possesses some great oneliners, including Mulder's well-timed, smartass comeback to Voss, "I'm sorry, answering that question would violate FBI confidentiality." :-) Just the type of dry humour we've come to expect from our G-man. Finally, I must point out the splendid inclusion of an entomologist who does not happen to go by the name of Bambi. Restitution, four years in the making? :-)

Unfortunately, however, despite the promising setup and the great concept, I'd have to say that overall, Brand X is somewhat lacking. As I said, it's not the concept of this episode that I find inferior. On the contray, I think it had great potential, the ability to be a suspense-packed hour, perhaps reminiscent of The Pinebluff Variant. But, where the episode could have shone, it very nearly fizzled: my main complaint is with the way it was delivered.
For lack of a better term, this episode simply did not have enough "oomph." Events that could have been angst-riddled were severely downplayed. For instance, the general reaction to Mulder's teetering on the brink of death is nothing more than "oh darn" (Though we do have a wonderful, albeit brief, display of emotion from Scully when the doctor suggests that they try the invasive procedure of cracking Mulder's chest. Subtle and intense at the same time; a classic Scully reaction). But really! I think I would be just a tad more upset if somebody told me there were lots and lots of bugs crawling inside my lungs, squirming around and eating me from the inside out. Oh yeah, and didn't someone mention that death was imminent? Even the "desperate search" for Weaver, the man who could hold the key to Mulder's recovery, seems a little downplayed. "Oh right. I guess we should find that guy who can save Mulder's life, because, you know, it would sorta suck if he died." *LOL* At any rate, the episode suffers from a lack of intensity. The potential for greatness undoubtedly exists, but for whatever reason, Brand X stalls and fails to hit the mark.

But on a final note, Mulder smoking? Perhaps there is some truth to Travelers after all--though I shudder at that thought :-)

All and all, Brand X becomes one of those "almost" episodes. It teeters on the edge of something interesting, but doesn't quite get there. It's almost as if it has been deliberately held back, dulled, perhaps, by its own shadow. A little more angst and this ep could have been something spectacular.

Squall's Rating: 6

all things 7X17

Everything happens for a reason...

Hey gang! Well, first thing's first, I made it back from my meeting in time to post the review! I know it's a little late. Thanx for your patience! Now whether or not it will make sense is another matter altogether :-) All I have to say is, what a night I've had *sigh* But, let's get down to business!

Well, before I say anything, I have to say this. WHAT A TEASER THAT WAS! I did not read a single spoiler before this ep, and consequently the segment nearly sent my shipper heart into an arrhythmia. I practically choked on the tea I was drinking! *LOL* Needless to say, it took me a moment to recover from that shocker. Ah, sometimes commercials can be a blessing! Gillian Anderson, the evil mistress of manipulation? Who would have thought :-)

But heart attacks aside, on to my general impressions on the ep. I have to say that this is a deeply symbolic episode. It's main focus is message rather than plot, and on that note, I think Gillian does a wonderful job in exploring the depths of Scully's soul. The story, I feel, is somewhat ambiguous, but as can be said with a number of X-Files episodes, the plot is not the main focus.

all things intially appears to follow the same pattern as Never Again, but with an important twist. In fact, it can be argued that all things is the natural continuation of Never Again, the events of the former helping to resolve Scully's lingering questions about her life, her place, and her purpose. While Never Again left Scully questioning her life and her choices, all things serves as assurance that the path she is on is the correct one. Life's accidents and coincidences--for instance, Scully's assignment to the X-Files, her reunion with Daniel Waterston, the near collision--can be seen as messages, agents which help to point her in the right direction. Perhaps we don't initially understand these messages, but if we force ourselves to slow down and take a look, we may see how everything falls into place. Indeed, in a rash of accidents and coincidences, Scully's lingering questions are essentially answered. She receives a taste of the life she could have had, and understands that this is not the life she wants. She faces her past, stops to examine the twists and turns along the way, and eventually comes to important conclusions about herself. Indeed, a wise person once said that we must look back before we can go forward, that in order to understand where we're going, we must understand where we've been.

An interesting factor in this episode is the recurrent appearance of the woman in the khaki suit, a figure which can be interpreted as Scully's guardian angel, the force that looks out for her and leads her in the right direction. The woman leads Scully on a journey of self-discovery, steering her toward the places where she will experience her revelations: Colleen's house and the Buddhist temple. Once Scully has come to the proper conclusions, the woman leads her back to where she belongs--to Mulder: indeed, we must come full circle to find the truth. [Or, in a slightly different interpretation, could the woman's apparent transformation into Mulder signify the fact that Mulder himself is Scully's guardian angel? Hmmm....]. In any case, Scully's bizarre string of accidents and coincidences takes her back to Mulder, and the realization that this is where she belongs.

What this episode will be immortalized for, however--aside from the fact that it is Gillian's writing and directorial debut--are the touching moments between Mulder and Scully. In the end, Scully pours her heart and soul out to Mulder, an action which is in itself a rarity for her. Mulder is deeply touched by Scully's words, and incredibly, seems to suggest that this may be the beginning of something more between them. As I always end up saying about the X-Files, so much more is conveyed not by what is said directly, but rather what is merely hinted at. I have to say that Gillian has done a great job in capturing the subtlties of Mulder and Scully's relationship, and taking them to an entirely new level.

Now, as for teaser... are we to assume that more has gone on than we might be led to believe? Indeed, Scully was not out of her clothes when Mulder covered her up on the couch... hmmm.... :-) I don't think anything really went on, but a shipper can dream :-)

Anyway, gang, that's about it for tonight. A deeply symbolic episode, and a great debut for Gillian.

Squall's Rating: 7+


And that raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Palas just above my chamber door
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming
And the lamplight oe'r him streaming throws his shadow on the floor
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted--nevermore.
-Edgar Allan Poe, "The Raven."

Well, I have to say, some interesting twists and turns, and a great ending. Spooky overtones, plus a wonderful echoing of my favourite poem, "The Raven."
Everything works to make Chimera a solid episode. It's not a spectacular episode in any sense, but I did enjoy it. What I like about this one is the fact that you aren't quite sure what's coming next. I immediately suspected Jenny as the culprit, and then for a brief moment I thought of Phil, despite the fact that his gender would otherwise rule him out :-) But I did not even consider Ellen until the last minute; I think it's safe to say that I was just as surprised as she was. Quite an effective twist, in my opinion.
In addition, I also like the concept of this one: you can deny the evil within yourself, you can run from it, but you can't hide from it completely. Indeed, the raven, universal symbol of evil, shadows Ellen at every turn. Though she unconsciously denies what she is, the bird remains her constant companion and is a tribute to her true nature. Even in the end, when she is forced to come to terms with the evil in herself, the bird remains, a beacon for the reality from which she cannot escape. As in Poe's famous poem, Ellen's soul remains captive beneath the shadow of the raven. She will be lifted nevermore.

Though I enjoyed the concept of this episode, one thing I did find mildly annoying was the stereotypical representation of the naive wife and the resentful bitch from the wrong side of town. The stereotypes were just a little too overblown for my liking, too much of a banal and rather outdated presentation of suburban life. I can see that this is intended to be a mask for the true motives of the characters, but in my opinion, something more subtle would have been just as effective.

Of course, the one line which will undoubtedly stand out in this episode is Mulder's response to Ellen at the breakfast table. When asked if he has a significant other, Mulder replies that his significant other is not anybody's normal idea of one. Very interesting comment, for we know that Mulder's relationships are not what one would consider normal. I wonder to whom he's referring :-)

Oh! And one more thing! A rather comical reversal of Chinga. Instead of bored Mulder calling Scully, we have bored Scully calling Mulder. Just another testament to the fact that they are both a little lost without the other. And a final piece of evidence to back up this theory, Mulder only finally cracks the case with the hint from Scully--not one's normal idea of a significant other, eh? *LOL*

Anyway gang, that's about it for tonight! A solid, spooky ep, with some unexpected twists and a great ending. Worth a repeat viewing!

Squall's Rating: 5


You'd die for Mulder, but you won't allow yourself to love him.

First of all, many apologies, but I'm going to have to rush thru the review tonight. I'm in the middle of a major term paper--but the good news is, it's my last term paper of the year... but exams are right around the corner *sigh* You can't win 'em all. But, enough about me *giggle* Now on to the episode.

I have to say that I absolutely loved this one. One thing I've always wanted to see on the X-Files is more Scully-CSM interaction. We got a taste of it in Closure, but with En Ami, Scully arguably gets more screen time with CSM in one episode than Mulder has had in the entire series.

What stands out in this episode are the immediate connections with Scully's cancer, and her own miraculous cure. This backdrop sets the feel for the rest of the episode; indeed, given the circumstances, CSM's offer is something Scully cannot refuse. She's a doctor, and her first priority is to help others. In addition, she sees the potential to gain vital information for Mulder. But more importantly, refusing CSM's overture means she could be denying the world the same opportunity she had: to be miraculously cured, and get a second chance on life. Despite her fear, the possibilities weigh too heavily on her conscience. Scully has no choice but to go along.

On the course of the journey, we learn a great deal about CSM's sentiments towards Scully. Of course, his primary objective is to use her to secure the disc, for Cobra would never voluntarily hand the disk over to an individual of CSM's status. But over the course of the journey, we learn that CSM has a deep admiration for Scully, "an affection," as he calls it. He's a little taken with her. In turn, Scully slowly develops her own sort of appreciation for him. Though she is still largely wary of his intentions, she can't help but see the lonely man buried deep within him, the man who may surface to cast aside his selfish exterior and save the world--indeed, the best villians are those with whom we can sympathize. Of course, CSM remains laregly true to character. Despite the soft twinges we've all felt from him now and then, his evil side shines through--or does it? :-) He does in fact save Scully's life; he didn't have to. And when he finally betrays her by switching the disk, I thought I detected the tiniest hint of reluctance in his countenance. But perhaps most startingly, he uses the disc to save his own life, then promptly discards it. By his own admission, whoever holds the disc controls the world. Is it possible that he no longer wants such power?

In addition to the interesting revelations on the increasingly-enigmatic CSM, we finally get some support to the events in Amor Fati. As a result of "brain exchange" with Mulder, CSM is dying due to a cerebral swelling. It seems, then, that he is not completely immune to the disease.

And, of course, we get a very real observation on Scully herself: according to CSM, she will die for Mulder, but she won't allow herself to feel love for him. She surpresses her feelings and will not admit her love Mulder for fear that it will get in the way. And interestingly, she doesn't deny these claims. She only comments on the validity of CSM's "pop psychology." Perhaps this is a truth she knows all too well.

Oh yes, and finally, the brilliant return of the "I'm fine" phrase. Indeed, where the X-Files is concerned, this statement carries a deep significance. It is an encoded message meant to convey much more than simply "I'm fine." Indeed, when Scully delivers this statement to Mulder, he knows instinctively that there is much more going on.

Anyway gang, this is a great episode, and I have more to say, I just don't have the time tonight. I'll see if I can add more over the course of the week!

Squall's Rating: 9


Always keep me guessing.

My first impression of this episode? Creepy. There is something intensely sinister about voodoo, the idea that a person literally holds your life in their hands, that they can act anytime, anywhere, and that you are virtually powerless to stop their assult. In my opinion, Theef captures the voodoo motif perfectly, and in doing so casts itself as one of the decidely-darker episodes of the season.

Right off the top, I have to say that my favourite scene from this ep was definitely Peattie's use of the microwave, if only for the fact that it absolutely made me cringe. The idea of death by an onslaught of radiation reflects the sheer terror of the dozens of urban legends which centre around the appliance. On top of everything else in the episode, it is an effective touch, and a brilliant new twist on the voodoo motif.

The voodoo overtones aside, what stands out most in this episode are the interesting Scully twists. First of all, Scully is once again the focus of the hexcraft. As in Fresh Bones, she becomes a target for the terrifying act, a marked victim for the voodoo curse. And once again she is spared, not by Chester Bonaparte's lucky charm, but by Mulder's quick thinking. [just an aside: I think that after this, Scully will probably want to go home and dig up that old lucky charm *LOL*].
But what also stands out is the "guessing game" she plays with Mulder. What is at first a friendly joke turns out to have a much deeper meaning. Indeed, it can be said that Mulder perhaps sees Scully as somewhat of an enigma. Though she is most often the skeptic, she occasionally opens herself up to extreme possibilities, leaving Mulder to ponder the circumstances of her acceptance. In this case, it appears that her two run-ins with the voodoo curse are all too convincing. She can provide no other explanation. She has no choice but to believe.

All in all, Theef is solid episode. Creepy, dark and sinister, and filled with intriguing twists. Worth a second look.

Squall's Rating: 5


No fair pickin on a girl...

I get the immediate sense that FPS is going to be one of those like-it-or-hate-it episodes. Philes everywhere will assemble themselves in a well-defined dichotomy, and there won't be much swaying in either direction. And so, I will pick my side straight from the outset, just so I won't leave you guessing until the end. Yes, I liked this episode. In fact, I thought it was an absolute riot :-) I'm not sure that "funny" was the overall effect to be conveyed, but FPS nonetheless struck a humour chord with me.

Just to get it out in the open, the extreme highlight of this ep for me was seeing Mulder decked out in Mr.Macho-darksunglasses-black-tanktop-biggun-sexy-cyborg gear. If Mulder got his ya-yas from playing the game, I definitely got mine from watching him do it *evil grin*
Now, I do apologize for my temporary hormonal regression. I will attempt to proceed with the rest of the review as usual :-)

What I like about this episode is the general "battle of the sexes" air it projects. Normally, I like the X-Files for the fact that it doesn't continously pluck at the harpstrings of gender issues. Gender equality on the X-Files is a given; it simply exists. It's accepted. Ah, if only society could follow suit. But, in an interesting twist of style, FPS suddenly plays up the gender stereotype, pitting male against female in an amusing battle of integrity. Mulder becomes the stereotypical "guy." And Scully.... well, Scully is always full of surprises :-)

Scully is of course characteristically unimpressed with Mulder's interest in the game, and with his interest in Ms. Afterglow (and by the way, I love the sarcastic smile she shoots him as she attempts to obscure Ms. Afterglow from his view. I actually think she took his behaviour as a challenge. I interpreted her expression as "oh really? Just wait and see." *LOL*). But while Mulder rides his testosterone high, Scully simply sits back and waits, saving her revenge for a well-timed humiliation at the height of Mulder's macho-fest.
And humiliate him she does, to his own admission. For it seems that Macho-Cyborg!Mulder is no match for the digital goddess--and no match for Super-Pissy!Scully, who happily upstages him in the "boys' game." And if you ask me, she liked it. Revenge can be so sweet. Go girl!

In addition to the hilarious battle of the sexes, I also enjoyed the underlying debate on the effects of videogame violence.

Scully: You think taking up weapons and creating gratuitous virtual mayhem has any redeeming value? That the testosterone frenzy it creates stops when the game does?
Mulder: Isn't that rather...sexist? I'm saying that the game is an outlet for certain impulses. Filling a void in our genetic makeup that the more civilizing effects of society fail to provide for.

In this case, I have to agree with Mulder. I enjoy the occasional video game, and the occasional romp through the LaserQuest maze. [Just an aside. If there was an additional bias for my liking this ep, the LaserQuest factor would be it *LOL*]. I think most people enjoy playing the occasional video game. And I have to stress the fact that *most* people don't display violent tendancies as a result of having played such games. Indeed, I think Mulder sums it up quite well. Video games are great stress relievers. They can indeed be viewed as an outlet for our daily frustrations. And who said anything about games being a testosterone frenzy? I think not *LOL*

Anyway gang, that just about sums up my thoughts for tonight. Quite an enjoyable ep. Definitely worth a great laugh.

I've included some pics from FPS, mainly to preserve the image of Macho!Mulder indelibly in my mind :-)
Macho!Mulder and Super!Scully.

Squall's Rating: 7


The camera doesn't always tell the whole story...

First thing's first, gang. Sorry to do this again, but I'm going to be a little rushed tonight. I have two huge midterms to study for *sigh* But, as always, X-Files serves as a wonderful study break *LOL* So, here we go!

Well, to get right to the point, I have to say that I enjoyed this episode for a number of reasons--not one of which being the fact that I was forced content-analyze COPS to death for a sociological research project last year :-) But, having had to endure hours and hours of COPS episodes, I do have to say that I was immensely impressed with the authenticity of this ep. Indeed, in terms of style and general feeling, Vince Gilligan hit this one right on the nail (of course the fact that he is rumoured to be a huge COPS fan may have something to do with that *LOL*).

But, speaking of style; I've decided that I quite enjoy the occasional continuous-action shot. I loved the effect in Triangle, and so having an entire ep shot in this fashion proved quite enjoyable; a little dizzying at times, but fun all the same.
David and Gillian's performances in this ep were also notable. As can easily be seen, Mulder and Scully are not quite themselves. They are slightly more aloof than usual, and their speech is interspersed with the occasional stutter--a natural reaction when ordinary people suddenly have a film crew thrust in their faces. Indeed, a genuine portrayal of such an ususual situation.
Though the plot in this one undoubtedly takes a backseat to the camera shots, the concept is quite intriguing. A creature that can attack by turning a person's fears against them; a manifestation of terror. It's like a nightmare brought to life, and great concept. In fact, I wouldn't mind if the writers actually chose to revisit the idea in a little more detail. I can see it becoming the basis for an intriguing episode.

Another thing that caught my attention in this ep was Mulder's line, "the camera doesn't always tell the whole story." As we know from countless past episodes, indeed the camera does not. Now in terms of specifics, exactly what was Mulder implying? *LOL*
Finally, Scully's reaction to the camera had me in hysterics. If anyone would be nonplused by the presence of a camera crew, it would be Scully. Ducking behind the van door, dodging behind Mulder, banishing the film crew from the car, smiling sarcastically for the camera in the autopsy bay, and finally uttering, "I hate you guys." Scully's numerous impromtu attempts to both evade and mock the camera crew had me in stitches throughout. Scully is indeed a master of subtle humour.

Anyway, sorry to have to run through this so quickly, but university calls again *sigh* All in all, great ep. Definitely worth a repeat viewing.

Squall's Rating: 7

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