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Thu
Sep 6 2012 12:00pm

Reopening The X-Files: “Kill Switch”

Reopening The X-Files on Tor.com: Kill Switch

Season 5, Episode 11: “Kill Switch”
Original Airdate: February 15, 1998

“Kill Switch” is an old story gussied up with new tech. Of course, the tech is from 1998, so the new tech is now not so new, so it's good for the old story that it is an old story, because it's a decent old story—ever heard the one about the machine that got smart and then got even? Written by cyberpunk godfathers William Gibson and Tom Maddox, “Kill Switch” is a fresh take on the show's usual slime-and-evolution monster of the week, the rare one-off that doesn't include a scene where Mulder refers to some wacky event that happened a century ago. Here is an X-File that doesn't yet have a file.

[Were you the bass player?]

Thu
Aug 30 2012 12:00pm

Reopening The X-Files: “Christmas Carol”/“Emily”

Reopening The X-Files on Tor.com: “Christmas Carol”/“Emily”

Season 5, Episodes 6 and 7: “Christmas Carol”/“Emily”
Original Airdates: December 7 and December 14, 1997.

Was there ever a character so abused by her writers as Dana Scully? In tribute to the character’s fortitude, the Internet used to call her Saint Scully—overlooking, of course, the fact that saints tend to be dead. Scully’s not dead, but Scully does suffer, over and over, as though the show’s writers believe that the character couldn’t exist without depression dogging her heels. Just a handful of episodes after she survives cancer, along come “Christmas Carol” and “Emily,” a bleak pair with angst in mind.

[Medicinal or recreational?]

Thu
Aug 23 2012 12:00pm

Reopening The X-Files: “The Post-Modern Prometheus”

Reopening The X-Files on Tor.com: The Post-Modern Prometheus

Season 5, Episode 5: “The Post-Modern Prometheus”
Original Airdate: November 30, 1997

Boy! Are there a lot of supernatural pregnancies on this show. Which shouldn't surprise me, I guess, I mean first of all I've seen it before and second of all it is a show that draws heavily on the popular alien abduction mythologies—you know, the ones where ladies get taken away and knocked up with alien babies. Supernatural pregnancies are scary if you're scared of humans being wiped out not by a big explosion but by biology, by the dilution of the species. If you're convinced that a mutant or an alien-human hybrid is going to be, somehow, better than you are.

[You think baloney would be more effective?]

Thu
Aug 16 2012 12:00pm

Reopening The X-Files: “Detour”

Reopening the X-Files on Tor.com: Detour

Season 5, Episode 4: “Detour”
Original Airdate: November 23, 1997

Mulder and Scully are headed for a teamwork seminar, which of course is a funny idea. Who needs a a teamwork seminar less than these two, right? These two who have fought side-by-side, who have seen things, who have saved each other over and over? But even the closest of partners take something for granted, as Scully learns within the first few minutes of this episode. As her better half gets out of a car and walks away without a word of explanation.

[How do I say this without using any negative words?]

Thu
Aug 9 2012 12:00pm

Reopening The X-Files: “Unusual Suspects”

Reopening The X-Files on Tor.com: Unusual Suspects

Season 5, Episode 3: “Unusual Suspects”
Original Airdate: November 16, 1997

There shouldn’t be anything particularly vital about “Unusual Suspects.” It’s an origin story, for sure, but it’s an origin story for three of the show’s peripheral characters: Frohike, Langly, and Byers. Together, the Lone Gunmen have always been available to advance a plot or allow Mulder a quip, but as characters they’ve never been key. It’s an episode that could easily have gone down as filler, but writer Vince Gilligan makes a concerted effort to give the Gunmen an important place in the mytharc.

[What’s with the narc?]

Thu
Aug 2 2012 12:00pm

Reopening The X-Files: “Redux”/“Redux II”

Reopening The X-Files on Tor.com: Redux/Redux II

Season 5, Episodes 1 and 2: “Redux”/“Redux II”
Original Airdates: November 2 and November 9, 1997

Let’s talk about Mulder, and let’s talk about his life’s work. His life’s work is a quest (for the truth) built on a faith (that the truth is out there). In “Gethsemane,” Mulder was led to believe that his faith was misplaced and that aliens might not exist at all. Then, we were led to believe that the merest suggestion of this would immediately make Mulder suicidal, or at least very very very sad. The Reduxes continue in this vein, reconstructing the Mulder we know as a man who might not believe, after all.

[Level 4 clearance. That means I get to dine at the officer’s club?]

Thu
Jul 26 2012 12:00pm

Reopening The X-Files: “Gethsemane”

Reopening The X-Files on Tor.com: Gethsemane

Season 4, Episode 24: “Gethsemane”
Original Airdate: May 18, 1997

“Gethsemane” is a trick. A sleight-of-hand performed clumsily, a cliffhanger with safety gear firmly in place. By the end of it, Mulder is meant to be dead, again, and that’s not even all: he’s meant to be dead by his own hand. What could drive Fox Mulder to kill himself? What, on earth, at this point, could be so terrifically bad that a man with his resilience and determination would give up?

[Funny place to take a nap.]

Thu
Jul 19 2012 12:00pm

Reopening The X-Files: “Zero Sum”

Reopening The X-Files on Tor.com: Zero Sum

Season 4, Episode 21: “Zero Sum”
Original Airdate: April 27, 1997

What is Walter Skinner’s deal, anyway? No seriously, the guy is shadowy. You don’t think about it much, because he’s not constantly smoking cigarettes in dark rooms and looking smug, but how much do you know about this guy? You know he lives in a pretty ugly apartment building and you know that he was in Vietnam. You know that he can be pretty badass when he needs to be. But what drives him? Why does he defend Mulder and Scully? What, you might ask, is his deal?

[A man digs a hole, he risks falling into it.]

Thu
Jul 12 2012 12:00pm

Reopening The X-Files: “Small Potatoes”

Season 4, Episode 20: “Small Potatoes”
Original Airdate: April 20, 1997

“Small Potatoes” is a charming yarn about a mutant who tricks a bunch of ladies and has sex with them and then they have babies and the babies have tails and somehow he’s supposed to be sort of a sympathetic character who teaches us something about how to live one’s life. It is meant to be a funny episode, and parts of it are. But there is something off about it, a flawed construction that diminishes what should have been one of the series’ smartest and most affectionate demonstrations of self-parody.

[Should we be picking out china patterns or what?]

Thu
Jul 5 2012 12:00pm

Reopening The X-Files: “Tempus Fugit”/“Max”

Reopening The X-Files on Tor.com: Tempus Fugit / Max

Season 4, Episodes 16 and 17: “Tempus Fugit”/“Max”
Original Airdates: March 16 and March 23, 1997

As we become more aware of the scale and complexity of the conspiracy, it becomes more important to remember the individuals who are affected by it. “The government” “the people” “the aliens,” these are all large groups, faceless groups, overwhelming to imagine. The show is at its strongest when it is able to put a face on something, to show the effect on a person whose name that we know. The smaller the better, sometimes, the more intimate, the more affecting. The closer the conspiracy seems to home.

[I just thought it was a pretty cool keychain.]

Fri
Jun 22 2012 10:00am

Cars 2 Loves You, No Mater What

Pixar Movie Marathon: Cars 2 Loves You, No Mater What

Cars 2 is probably nobody’s favorite Pixar movie. It is the easiest to shrug off, anyway, a sequel to the other Pixar movie that is nobody’s favorite and a critical flop besides. Of course when I say “nobody” I am talking about us grown-ups, so maybe I am completely wrong. After all, Pixar movies are children’s movies, a fact that we totally understand but not really. As grown-ups we have decided that a Pixar movie has responsibilities: it must have a complexity, it must not insult our intelligence, it must be beautiful. We must be able to go see it with our other grown-up friends, no children in tow, and we must not feel like total weirdos. And you know what? It feels a little weird, as a grown-up, to watch an animated movie about a redneck tow truck who fights crime.

[If there ain’t no oil under ’em, there ain’t no oil in ’em.]

Thu
Jun 21 2012 12:00pm

Reopening The X-Files: “Memento Mori”

Season 4, Episode 14: “Memento Mori”
Original Airdate: February 9, 1997

Scully has cancer, and Scully is stoic. We wouldn’t expect anything less from her, anything less than a long shot of her studying her own brain, anything less than calmly instructing Mulder as to the nature—and inoperability—of this cancer, without another doctor in sight. Cancer is awful, and difficult, but cancer is not an X-File, so it is up to her to be in charge of it. Still, she must know, when she chooses to tell Mulder first, what his response will be. Not a tear, or an offer to hold her hand through the treatment, but a small smile and, “I don’t accept that.”

[Pick out something black and sexy and prepare to do some funky poaching.]

Thu
Jun 14 2012 12:00pm

Reopening The X-Files: “Never Again”

The X-Files, Never Again, Season 4 Episode 13

Season 4, Episode 13: “Never Again”
Original Airdate: February 2, 1997

Mulder and Scully are not having sex. Not with each other, no matter what the fanfic tells you, and not with anyone else either. On the rare occasions that we glimpse them in their downtime they are having a quiet evening at home, or sneaking onto UFO crash sites. You could argue that it’s because they’re desperately in love with each other, too in love with each other to act on any other impulses; you could argue that their lives are too often disrupted by alien abduction and gulag torture, but honestly. When it comes to sex, The X-Files can be remarkably quaint.

[Sometimes I wish I were more impulsive.]

Thu
Jun 7 2012 12:00pm

Reopening The X-Files: “Leonard Betts”

The X-Files, Season 4 Episode 12,

Season 4, Episode 12: “Leonard Betts”
Original Airdate: January 26, 1997

“Leonard Betts” is a stunning episode. It’s at first a classic monster of the week,; well-structured and with interesting themes. But then comes the conclusion, with a genuinely shocking twist that both elevates the story and demonstrates the show’s core strength. At its best, The X-Files is not a show about monsters and aliens, but a show about fear: the fear of the unknown, the fear of the impossible, and the fear that once the truth is revealed, it will be impossible to believe.

[Blinked or winked?]

Thu
May 31 2012 12:00pm

Reopening The X-Files: “Paper Hearts”

Season 4, Episode 10: “Paper Hearts”
Original Airdate: December 15, 1996

Do you believe that Samantha Mulder was abducted by aliens? Really, gut check, at this point in the show, where are we on this? Of course Mulder is driven by many things but the core of the reactor is Samantha, is that night when the two of them argued about what to watch on television and then he couldn’t get to the gun fast enough. It could have been aliens, it could have been the government, it could have been aliens on behalf of the government or government on behalf of the aliens. But wouldn’t it be something, at this point, if it was none of those things at all?

[Thirteen sounds more magical.]

Thu
May 24 2012 12:00pm

Reopening The X-Files: “Tunguska”/“Terma”

Season 4, Episodes 8 and 9: “Tunguska”/“Terma”
Original Air Dates: November 24, 1996 and December 1, 1996

Okay, but what if the conspiracy wasn’t just at home. Sorry — we were talking about the conspiracy, right? I know things got a little confused last week, the did-he-or-didn’t-he of it all, but this is a two-part episode so it’s serious times again. Thus far the show has focused pretty solidly on keeping the conspiracy local, keeping the fight between our agents and the shadowy men behind the United States government. There have been international waters before — Japanese scientists and French salvage missions — but “Tunguska” and “Terma” have something else in mind, something big and dark and cold and (in 1996) only a little bit dated: The Cold War. All those who like hearing Canadian actors put on Russian accents, put your hands UP!

[Just think warm thoughts.]

Thu
May 17 2012 12:00pm

Reopening The X-Files: “Musings of a Cigarette-Smoking Man”

Season 4, Episode 7: “Musings of a Cigarette-Smoking Man”
Original Air Date: November 17, 1996

So what’s it going to take for you to not take the Cigarette-Smoking Man seriously? Because this guy, he is serious. He’s been serious since day one, lurking in the shadows while Scully delivered some pro exposition. He’s been serious every single time that Mulder has shoved a gun in his face. He’s been serious when the Consortium didn’t believe him, he’s been serious when Krycek didn’t die, and he’s serious when Mulder didn’t die, either. So what’s it going to take? How about: a Lone Gunman.

[No more enemies.]

Thu
May 10 2012 12:00pm

Reopening The X-Files: “Home”

Reopening The X-Files: Home

Season 4, Episode 2: “Home”
Original Airdate: October 11, 1996

“Home” is a bit of a legend, or at least, that’s how I remember it. It aired with a Viewer Discretion warning, the first of only two that The X-Files would receive, and it rarely appeared in reruns. I remembered the episode as a disgusting skin-crawler, some combination of Buried Child and the Flukeman, an episode that would make me want to avert my eyes over and over. But “Home” is in fact better than that: it’s horror, good horror, well-told and suspenseful with a broad streak of wry humor to keep you from dwelling too much on its brutal, awful murders.

[Meanwhile I’ve quit the Bureau and become a spokesperson for the Ab-Roller.]

Thu
Apr 26 2012 12:05pm

Reopening The X-Files: “Talitha Cumi”/“Herrenvolk”

Reopening The X-Files: Talitha Cumi/Herrenvolk

Season 3, Episode 24: “Talitha Cumi”/
Season 4, Episode 1: “Herrenvolk”
Original Airdates: May 17 and October 4, 1996

So let’s say your show about aliens and monsters has gone and got big. Cover of Rolling Stone big, one of your leads is hosting Saturday Night Live big. In Season 1 your largest audience was 8.3 million. Now, in Season 3, you’re regularly pulling twice that. And maybe there’s a little bit of criticism, a little bit of fear that your mytharc is getting a teense unwieldy. But it’s fine, it’s fine, it’s fine because you have plans. Plans that can fill a big show, hell, words that can fill a big show. And bees. You also have bees!

[I’m not impressed by your miracles or moved by your trickery.]

Thu
Apr 19 2012 12:00pm

Reopening The X-Files: “Quagmire”

Season 3, Episode 22: “Quagmire”
Original Airdate: May 3, 1996

There are all sorts of monsters on The X-Files. There are the ones that humanity has created, like the Flukeman. There are the ones that have evolved, like Tooms. And then there are the ancient monsters, the ones who live far below the surface, quietly reigning over the food chain. Lake monsters, for instance, those canny beasts. Or perhaps something worse, something silent and powerful and ancient in its way. The sort of monster that can drive you and your partner to Georgia, to sit stranded in the middle of a cold lake in the blackest heart of night.

[Hell is an idea first born on an undigested apple dumpling.]