Sunday, February 28, 2016

X-Files: Home Again 'Shipper Survey

We're four episodes into Season Ten, and I've kinda noticed something about this miniseries: it's basically a Greatest Hits attempt at a season by replaying/revisioning some of the better earlier classic episodes.

Not that this is a bad move. You don't want to go out and reinvent a wheel when that wheel moved a multi-million-dollar franchise. You want to make sure you bring back the fanbase who loved the classics, and you want to inform the newer viewers tuning in wondering what the fuss is about.

On the other hand, these replays have to be done with a ton of finesse. You can't just mash together thematic elements or plot ideas and hope for the best. You want at least something with an obvious artistic flourish by the writer/director of a particular episode to make it work.

So far, the episode that's worked best - Darin Morgan's Mulder and Scully Meet Abbott and Costello the Were-Monster - had the typical Darin elements of absurdism and melancholy about the human condition. Founder's Mutation was a well-paced MOTW-Mytharc hybrid except for the unsubtle moments. The series reboot My Struggle... well... it was all set-up, and it depends a lot on how the final episode pans out.

That said, here we have Home Again, which has all the classic signs of a monster serial killer plot, and... and... incredible amounts of character angst. You've been warned, this is a SPOILER-ish type of episode.

Senseless 'Shipper Survey - Home Again

1) The episode opens on a dark city street. A man with all the bearing of a government bureaucrat is ordering a set of fire hoses upon a street alley of homeless people, in an attempt to drive them out of that alley and into a nearby "shelter" so they can convert that property into a posh high-rise. Later that night, the bureaucrat checks in at work, in a darkened office without any other employees around, and with the security cameras unprotected by any supernatural power to knock them off their mounts. Yeah, you know that can mean only one thing: this guy is dead meat in 5... 4... 3... 2... (rrrrriipppppp). Yeah, you also know:

A) If anyone's thinking this is gonna be a sequel to that one nasty episode, it doesn't look that way. I mean, this is a nasty episode all by itself, but that can't be one of the Peacock boys...
B) That is NOT how you disarm someone. ...Yeah, I went there.
C) This Monster of the Week isn't leaving any body behind for Dana and Fox to flirt over during the autopsy!

2) The locals are notably freaked out. But never fear! Two FBI agents show up! You're certain they'll answer to:
A) Moose and Squirrel!
B) Frank and Earnest!
C) Mr. and Mrs. Mulder-Scully!

3) In the middle of checking out the crime scene - where the bloody footprints can't be real because "there are no ridges", and where a spooky street art outside the window looks like the murder suspect - Scully receives a call from William... her son?... no, it's William Junior, her older jerkass brother from Seasons 4 through 9. There's an emergency in the family: something happened to Dana's mom. When she tries to explain the situation to Mulder, he immediately tells her to go. When he does that, you go:

A) "Awwww, the Punk cares!"
B) "Awwww, he cares!"

4) Dana rushes to the hospital to find her mother - look, kids! Mrs. Scully! (applause) - at death's door. The elder woman is wrapped up in tubes and wires and machines that go ping when there's stuff. She's suffering the after-effects of a heart attack and may not last long. Your response is:


Note: yes, the actress' name is Sheila Larken, but she'll always be Mrs. Scully to me.

5) Mulder is busy getting evidence that the murder victim was part of a move to clear out the homeless to a shelter, and runs into two pretty unlikable characters who have neon signs over their heads saying "Jerkass Victim Two" and "Jerkass Victim Three." A nearby homeless man warns Mulder about the Trashman, which the agent realizes might be that street art on the billboard overhead. Only to see that the billboard art has vanished. You take this all in and note:

A) see B)
B) see C)

6) It turns out the billboard art got swiped by two vandals who are hoping to sell the art as their own, as soon as they "clean" it up and remove the original artist's signature from it. But as the vandals meet their grisly gruesome demise, we see that the signature for Trashman won't easily go away. You realize:

A) The Trashman killer better respect the forensics crime lab people who are just there to do their jobs and not get killed if there's any cleaning involved!
B) At least this is one killer who signs his work.

7) At some point, Mulder can't do much more for the investigation so he calls Scully. Scully answers her phone and he says "I'm here," and she looks up to see Mulder outside the Critical Care ward with a compassionate look on his face. Your reaction is:

A) "Okay, so the Punk's not being a punk right now. We're cool."
B) "You get the feeling this isn't going to be much of a monster hunt episode, is it?"
C) "He's here, Fox cares, it's all because Mrs. Scully has always been the nicest, sanest parental figure in the entire show and always baked cookies for Fox, and he's nice enough to let Mrs. Scully call him Fox because he knows she means well and... and... oh no, I'm getting all crying again..." /weeps

8) There's a sizable amount of emotional angst as Scully tries to cope with the loss of her mother, and confused as to why her mom changed the conditions of her living will without her knowing. As Mrs. Scully stirs awake for what may be the last time, Dana's mom smiles at her, then notices Fox nearby and touches his face. "My son is named William, too," Mrs. Scully says before fading away. You:

B) Yeah, going to the waterworks meself right now OH GOD NO WHHHHYYYYYYYY? /weeping
C) (Die from the overwhelming emotional pain)

9) Oh, there's been a few more deaths, and Mulder and Scully get a lead that brings them to an underground artist who's literally hiding underground from his own monster, and it turns out that Trashman is a political protest come to life in the form of a Tulpa, an avatar of the mind, and that Trashman is targeting anyone who's attacking the homeless people, which means there's one more victim left for Mulder and Scully to save. As they race to the homeless shelter where the last bureaucrat is foolishly walking down a darkened hallway, you realize:

A) They're never gonna save anybody like this! You'd think after nine plus seasons that Mulder and Scully would figure out the smart move is to round up every secondary character appearing in the first ten minutes of the episode and put them all under protective custody! I mean, SHEESH!
B) A Tulpa?! They're fighting a Tulpa?! DUDES! THAT WAS FROM THE SUBURBAN HELL EPISODE "ARCADIA" FROM SEASON, wassis, SIX! DAMMIT! WE'VE BEEN HERE! Talk about recycling a plot! /headdesk
C) The biggest problem with this episode? Not enough Dana and Fox flirting over autopsies! But then again, sniff, I mean, Dana's been distracted and... and... sniff... WAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!

10) The episode ends with the artist fleeing the city, with evidence that he's removed the Trashman art and replaced them all with smiley faces. Mulder and Scully sit on a log along the shores of Vancouver, uh Maryland, where Scully tries to come to terms with how her mother passed on, and what she was trying to tell her daughter with the decisions she made. As the episode ends with both Mulder and Scully regretting giving up their son for adoption, you:

B) Bemoan the fact that this Monster of the Week episode couldn't make up its mind, and felt like two separate stories shoe-horned into each other to get it to a fifty-three minute length (with room for commercial time).

If you answered:
A) You're an OBSSE fan of Agent Scully who needs to cry some more.
B) You need to read more horror stories, try the horror anthologies published by Mystery& Horror LLC like Strangely Funny and... and... whadda mean, I'm not allowed to shill?
C) You're a 'Shipper who really really REALLY needs to cry your eyes out.

Next up: There is no damn way I am 'Shipping "Babylon," so I might as well skip to "My Struggle Part II"

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Tuesday Morning X-Files Fanaticism: My Sharona, NO WAIT My Struggle Part II: The Quickening!

Some SPOILAGE if you hadn't seen last night's mini-series cliffhanger:







Too late!

In short: all of the dull stuff from Part I gets parlayed into five different action scenes into Part II, but with an unsettling cliffhanger in which global pandemic threatens all of humanity before Dana and Fox can hold hands to satisfy us 'Shippers in any way.

This episode felt flat in that for all of the past history of the evil Syndicate - noted here in flashbacks - it's all been boiled down into just the Smoking Man triggering the biohazard Apocalypse as though he alone has survived the entire shadow war and was setting himself up as God-Emperor. In some respects, he HAD survived it all, but factions should still exist... it just felt as though this Conspiracy was done all on the cheap, and done rather quick.

And the other thing is, I thought Mulder had also been infected with alien DNA - his near-death situation involving the Black Oil Aliens - so why was he getting sick here?

One last thing, as JC De La Torre tweeted with me about this miniseries finale: yeah, this was NOT an ending this is pretty much Chris Carter's way of making Fox execs go "Okay, for a Season Eleven, you want HOW MUCH MONEY delivered to you in Brinks trucks?"


Sunday, February 21, 2016

Season Ten Finale is TOMORROW ZOMG

So lemme post the trailer for the episode here, hold on:

In the meanwhile, if you're wondering why I haven't written a 'Shipper Survey in awhile, there's been some real-world distractions - aliens, I kid you not - keeping me from my duties here, but with luck I will have something 'shipped for my loyal twelve readers as soon as possible...

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Tuesday Morning X-Files Fanaticism: Sweetness Follows Edition

Some SPOILERS if you haven't seen last night's episode yet.

On the other hand, you've probably felt the disturbance in the Force, as though millions of X-Philes cried out in terror, and were not silenced because it was a f-cking sad episode that took away one of the more well-liked supporting characters on the original series.



Still Spoiling...

You can go ahead and read the Vulture's Recap if you want here in case you've been SPOILED already...



Are you ready?



Oh, and a Monster of the Week killed a bunch of mean people.

That's pretty much the whole episode.

It's these little things, they can pull you under
Live your life filled with joy and wonder
I always knew this altogether thunder
Was lost in our little lives
Oh, oh, but sweetness follows...

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Mulder And Scully Meet The Were-Monster And Forgot to Get a Selfie

Sooooo, last night there was some silliness, a lot of pandering to the fan base bringing back cameos and reminders of past episodes and a shout out or twelve to those lost and gone from us, and it being a Darin Morgan episode there was surprising human depth to what could have been a campy "Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster" episode.

My immediate takeaway from Darin's work was that - AGAIN - Darin was trying to find some pathos in the meaning of the human experience - what drives us, what we seek and can never find - in a universe that keeps spinning on regardless of whether we buy or sell enough smartphones.

On the surface of this episode, I got the impression that Darin also reads the webcomic xkcd, because "Were-Monster" had a lot to say about the prevalence of smartphone cameras and the diminishing return on believable photographic evidence of Bigfoot and UFOs, like thus:
When I saw this cartoon, it broke my heart.
My childhood reading up on UFOs and Bigfoot and ghosts,
and all I got in the end was an LG480 with Verizon service.

Because our story opens on a disgruntled and despairing Mulder, back in the basement working the X-Files cases like he's wanted to but frustrated more than ever that his work is meaningless. As Scully enters with a case - and yelling at him for throwing pencils into HER "I Want to Believe" poster (because Mulder shredded his back in "My Struggle") - Mulder rants back about the lack of genuine evidence over 25 years of work on the paranormal. He flips through fake photo after fake photo of men in rubber suits either trying to sell car tires or pretending to be armadillos. He's gotten to the point where he's tired of chasing after monsters because it turns out the monsters are either alligators ("Quagmire") or wolves or bears or tigers or plain old human serial killers in a rubber mask.

Scully smiles and tries to bring up they have a new case to investigate. "It has a monster in it," she adds.

This is Mulder finally hitting his mid-life crisis: where the passion of his career as an FBI agent investigating the bizarre and unusual - and not achieving any permanent results - have finally taken its toll. When they reach the backwoods of Oregon - again - Mulder is flippant about the grisly details - dead bodies everywhere of men with their throats chewed out - and dismissive of the eyewitness testimony - by the same two stoners that pop up in other X-Files episodes - that can't agree on whether the horned lizard monster spotted at the scene has three eyes or two. The Animal Control officer working the forest that night and had been accosted by that lizard monster refuses to comment.

That the same two stoners from "War of the Coprophages" and "Quagmire" return reflects Mulder's ennui. It's been 25 years for them as well, and all they've done has been to get high on anything (nowadays inhaling paint). Even the stoner guy's musing about turning into a werewolf is meaningless: even as a lycanthrope he'll likely waste his time getting high.

The first act is essentially Mulder confronting that ennui, teamed up with Scully who genuinely tries to snap him out of it by pointing out inconsistencies and the likelihood of a real monster on the loose. Even working the spooky shadows of a truck stop where a transgender prostitute Annabelle beats off that lizard monster - uh, with her purse, guys - doesn't make Mulder any giddier. He looks a little bit like Gary Shandling did playing Mulder in the "Hollywood AD" fake movie, all dour sarcasm as he questions if the prostitute was currently high on crack. "Yes!" she says, as if it was part of her natural persona.

When the truck stop becomes another crime scene with a fresh dead guy and sightings of the lizard monster, rather than break out a gun he'd drop again during the chase Mulder breaks out his smartphone and starts taking pictures. It's that reference to the xkcd chart: Mulder would prefer documenting the proof rather than arrest it. In a shameful display of cranky-old-geezer syndrome however, Mulder doesn't know how to operate the damn thing and ends up taking bad pictures of himself and the nearby Animal Control officer when the lizard monster charges at them with blood spraying out of his eyes.

The lizard monster, not Mulder. Mulder's too busy getting bad selfies of himself.

Scully's trying to avoid Mulder's attempt to show those bad photos as well as him digging up Wikipedia articles about normal lizards that can shoot blood out of their eyes as a defense mechanism. "Mulder the Internet is not good for you," Scully sighs, but she admits with a smile that she missed this kind of craziness during their previous MOTW assignments.
Preach it, Scully

There's a lot more craziness - a creepy motel of stuffed animals and a mounted jackalope head, a psychiatrist treating not only a man who claims to be a lizard but also a werewolf (he sees the werewolf on Mondays... wait this episode was on a Monday...), and far too many people on drugs - before Scully tracks down the suspected were-lizard - the aptly named Guy Mann - selling smartphones in town. Mulder races over to find the store in shambles and the suspect in flight. Using the powers of deduction known as "contrived plot elements," Mulder follows Guy to a graveyard full of X-Files producers and asks for the Truth.

What Mulder - and the audience gets - from Guy is a beautifully crafted subversion of the standard Werewolf/Cursed Man story. It turns out that Guy is really a normal, happy-go-lucky lizard monster who tragically came across a human eating another human in the forest, and in an effort to do the right thing gets bitten by the crazed serial killer... which turns him into an average, almost pitiful human. Where werewolves are cursed with the instincts to hunt, main and kill, Guy found himself cursed with the instincts to wear clothes, find a low-wage job, and worry about a mortgage he never really had before.

In Darin Morgan's classic style, Guy's tale deconstructs what it means to be a human being. There's a horrifying element to the mundane chores and meaningless BS he uses to get that job and even get promoted to manager. Even though he's been at that job for one day he's already bored out of his mind and soul-crushed by it. The only joy he gets is when he discovers that at nightfall he switches back to being a lizard... and that joy ends when daybreak comes and turns him back into a human again.

Having never really been human before, he has no friends and is driven to find a pet puppy to fill that lonely ache - in a nice touch, the dog is happy to play with Guy when he switches back to his lizard self at night - only to have his pet disappear from the motel room when he comes home from work, worsening his mood. His isolation is so bad he's willing to lie like a normal human - badly - about his sex life by trying to tell Mulder that Scully seduced him in that phone store.

Ah... Uh... Um... I'll be in my bunk.
Me and twenty million other guys (and gals)

"Stop." Mulder insists at this point. "That. Did NOT. Happen."

With that bold a lie, Mulder seems unable to accept Guy's tale, and remains at Kim Manners' gravesite while Guy - realizing Mulder views him as the monster rather than the victim - runs away.

As with most X-Files, it's left to Scully to put the finishing touches in the case. Having chased down Guy's lost puppy to the Animal Control shelter, Scully immediately falls in love with Daggoo, and gets attacked by the Animal Control guy who was the human monster all along. Mulder, overhearing the fight over the phone, races to the shelter fearing the worst... only to find Scully had single-handed captured the serial killer. The Animal Control guy starts going into his violent past of torturing small animals, at which points Scully tells him to shut up and pushes him towards the local cops. "But I had a speech prepared," the Animal Control guy whimpers, underscoring the banality of even serial killers in the human condition.

Realizing Guy wasn't the monster after all, Mulder races off to find him, again using the powers of the plotline to find the poor lizard Werehuman stumbling back into the forest. It's his species time to go back into hibernation, a cycle lasting 10,000 years during which Guy hopes his human illness will fade (will he become a lizard who dreamed he was a man?). As Guy strips off the human clothes, he admits it was good to have met Mulder - someone who at least listened to his sad lot in life - and shakes hands with him.

Mulder starts to say "Likewise..."

...Only to see Guy's hand has gone scaly, and Mulder looks up to see a lizard monster with two eyes staring back, maybe smiling, before he turns and runs into the forest, hopefully free at last.

And Mulder smiles as well. After an episode of complaining there were no real creatures of mystery - that all the monsters were human - he finally saw with his own two eyes.

It's a pity he didn't have his smartphone with him to take a picture.