Monster from the Past: The X-Files S11x6 “Kitten” Review

February 9, 2018 at 6:51 PM | Posted in TV | Leave a comment
Tags: , ,

SPOILER WARNING: This review contains major spoilers of The X-Files season 11. Read at your own risk!

 

This has to be the weakest episode of The X-Files season 11 apart from “My Struggle III.” I was actually bored while watching “Kitten.” The episode delves into the past of FBI assistant director Walter Skinner, specifically his time in the Vietnam War as a teen and how that life-changing event affected him years later.

While “Kitten” is a Skinner-centric episode, it still manages to put Mulder and Scully right in the heart of the story. Also, FBI deputy director Alvin Kersh is back and still has misgivings about Mulder and Scully being back at the bureau. The last time we saw Kersh, he helped the duo escape in season 9.

In the episode, Mulder and Scully are summoned by Kersh who tells them to find Skinner. Apparently, Skinner has gone AWOL. Mulder and Scully’s investigation lead them to a small town in Kentucky called Mud Lick. That’s where they found Skinner who is trying to make things right with his old platoon-mate named John “Kitten” James.

There’s no actual monster or supernatural being in this stand-alone episode. The monster that’s been constantly referred to here is just hallucination. Skinner’s time in the Vietnam War exposed him and his friend John to a weaponized gas from a secret military project called MK Naomi. The gas makes a person hallucinate and see “monsters.” However, the gas didn’t seem to affect a young Skinner that time as his exposure was minimal. It’s his friend John who has had a lot of exposure to the gas. A military cover-up led John to be institutionalized years later and Skinner has been racked with guilt since then that he couldn’t help his friend.

Photo credit: xfilesarchive.com

However, instead of finding John in Kentucky, Skinner meets his friend’s son Davey who lives in a nearby forest. Davey turns out to be the “monster” who wants to avenge his father’s sad fate. He dons a cattle skull mask and kills Vietnam veterans around town by luring them into traps.

Davey’s claims of the government using crops to infect the population with the gas is a trope that’s already been done before in the show. It’s not surprising anymore. Remember the infected bees from previous seasons? And honestly, the pacing of the episode is dragging. Even Skinner’s monologue at the end feels like it doesn’t hold much weight.

“Kitten” is underwhelming and anti-climactic. There is no thrill, no sense of danger. The atmosphere of the episode lacks dread or fear. Davey doesn’t even look and sound threatening. The episode just kind of goes by that it feels like a filler more than anything else.

Photo credit: bleedingcool.com

Open Holes:

  1. If Davey wanted to avenge his father’s misfortune, then why did he hang him to the tree? Was he dead before Davey hang him to the tree?
  2. If Kersh wasn’t happy with Mulder and Scully being back at the bureau, then why didn’t he protest in the first place? Why didn’t he try to prevent it? This was my problem with the season 9 finale when Kersh helped them escape from the corrupted bureau. It just didn’t make sense. Correct me if I’m wrong but as far as I can remember, he was hell-bent on destroying Mulder and Scully in season 9. But towards the series finale, he suddenly helped them escape. Then now, he’s back to hating them. I don’t get it.
  3. So Skinner was already divorced? He used to be married in earlier seasons.
  4. Skinner got out of the hole that quick despite his wound and managed to get ahead of Mulder and Scully to attack Davey? Not buying it.
  5. The mail containing a severed ear just happened to be lying around in Skinner’s home for any intruder to find?

Cloak and Dagger: The X-Files S11x5 “Ghouli” Review

February 5, 2018 at 10:16 PM | Posted in TV | Leave a comment
Tags: , ,

SPOILER WARNING: This review contains major spoilers of The X-Files season 11. Read at your own risk!

 

The fifth episode of The X-Files season 11 titled “Ghouli” is a mix of Monster of the Week and myth arc story, with Mulder and Scully’s long-lost son William at the core. It’s worth noting that after the show ended in season 9, it has never fully addressed the story of William even when the second X-Files movie came out in 2008. Not until the series came back in 2016. Even then, we have seen only glimpses of Scully’s guilt of losing William and flashback scenes of what might have been if Mulder and Scully didn’t give up baby William for adoption.

Thankfully, “Ghouli” took that subject head on in this episode. It started out as a simple case that Mulder and Scully were called upon to investigate. Two teenage girls attacked each other at an abandoned ferry in Virginia. What’s weird about this case was that each teenage girl claimed to have seen a monster in the ferry called Ghouli – an urban legend they’ve read online. But somehow, they ended up attacking each other with a knife, each believing that the other was Ghouli.

Meanwhile, Scully started experiencing sleep paralysis where she dreamt that she’s sleeping on a bed at a stranger’s house but unable to move. A dark figure hovered behind her and led her through the house. This might seem unrelated to the case that Mulder and Scully were handling but Scully found out later that the two girls who attacked each other dreamt the same thing as her. Mulder and Scully also found out that the girls were unknowingly dating the same boy. The teenage boy’s name was Jackson Van De Kamp. When Mulder and Scully went to the boy’s house to investigate, Scully realized that it was the same house in her dream.

Unfortunately, things took a sudden turn as the boy’s parents were shot to death just before Mulder and Scully went inside the house. The duo heard another shot upstairs upon entering and that’s when Scully saw Jackson’s dead body on the floor covered in blood. While police were called in after the incident, Scully suspected that Jackson might be her long-lost son William. Call it a mother’s instinct if you will. Also, in season 9, Scully knew that the family who adopted her son William was named Van De Kamp.

Photo credit: io9.gizmodo.com

Gillian Anderson delivered one of her best performances yet as Scully in this episode during that heartbreaking scene in the hospital morgue. Jackson’s dead body was laid on a table in a body bag in the morgue while Scully took a sample of her DNA as well as his. Alone with Jackson’s body, Scully poured out her heart and soul to him, not even sure if he’s actually William. But she let him know that she gave him up for adoption to protect him, to keep him safe. She also let him know that she’s never forgotten him. Mulder happened to have heard half of what Scully said when he came inside the morgue and the two shared a touching moment and held each other for comfort.

William had always been a special child as he possessed supernatural abilities as shown in season 9. So it came as no shock when Jackson/William suddenly got out from the body bag after Mulder and Scully left the morgue. It turned out that Jackson/William had an ability to “cloak” himself and control people’s visions. Jackson wasn’t shot to death. He only made Scully, Mulder and the others see (and hear) what he wanted them to see. He’s projecting images to people and making them believe that what they’re seeing was real.

Photo credit: cinemablend.com

Later in the episode, we learned from Skinner that there was a secret government project headed by the Cigarette Smoking Man years ago called Project Crossroads. Apparently, Scully unwittingly became part of that project when CSM injected her with alien DNA in season 7 which got her pregnant with William. This directly connects to the running myth arc in the series. It was also confirmed during Mulder’s exchange with Skinner that Jackson was indeed William as proven by the DNA test that Scully took earlier.

Photo credit: joblo.com

We also learned later that the monster Ghouli was all made up by William. He admitted this when he visited his girlfriends who were recovering at the hospital. He created a website about the monster he made up and projected the image of Ghouli to his girlfriends to scare them as part of a prank. But he didn’t intend for them to attack each other.

I was disappointed that X-Files writer James Wong wrote William this way. Given that William has had seizures and visions of the future just like Scully – visions that’s been haunting him as what he said in one of his entries on the Ghouli website – one would expect him to be a troubled kid. But I didn’t expect him to be a player, a kid who’s dating two girls at the same time. I imagine Mulder and Scully would be disappointed as well. What’s more, he played a cruel prank on his two girlfriends that almost got them killed. If William was raised by Mulder and Scully, I doubt that he would behave that way.

The episode ended with Mulder and Scully dropping off at a gas station with a windmill that looked very much like the one in the snow globe that Scully took from William’s room. While refilling their car’s gas, Scully encountered the same man again from the hospital – the one who accidentally bumped into her while she was heading out. There was a sense of warmth and friendliness between their exchanges, and when the strange man drove off, Scully thought that there was something familiar about him. That’s when Scully and Mulder realized that something was up.

Photo credit: cinemablend.com

When they reviewed the tape from a CCTV camera at the gas station, they saw on the monitor that Scully was talking to William the whole time instead of the strange man. William “cloaked” himself the first time he saw Scully at the ferry and once again at the hospital. He did it the third time at the gas station.

Could it be that William was seeking Scully all this time and led her and Mulder to Virginia through that Ghouli prank? Now that William is on the run, will Mulder and Scully see him again? Will he be willing to help prevent the pandemic in the future? Will he eventually accept Mulder and Scully as his birth parents?

In a way, “Ghouli” delivered a satisfying story that finally addressed the William story arc – a story that has been problematic since season 9.

As much as I’m looking forward to episode 10 of the season where fans can see William again as previously announced, I’m worried that series creator Chris Carter might mess up the story again. I can only hope that the season finale will be much better than expected and would fix the mess from that part of the myth arc.

False Memories: The X-Files S11x4: “The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat” Review

January 27, 2018 at 2:01 PM | Posted in TV | Leave a comment
Tags: , , ,

SPOILER WARNING: This review contains major spoilers of The X-Files season 11. Read at your own risk!

 

This episode felt like a self-parody of The X-Files in its entirety as it poked fun of the things that the show were famous for. It’s light and entertaining at best, given that it’s written by X-Files veteran Darin Morgan – the same writer who gave us classic comedic episodes like “Small Potatoes” and “Jose Chung’s From Outer Space.”

However, there wasn’t anything substantial in “The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat” in terms of plot. There was no crime for Mulder and Scully to solve; no UFO sighting to investigate. There was just this jittery guy named Reggie Something who asked Mulder to help him prove that he’s real. Reggie claimed that he used to work with Mulder and Scully but that “they” (a shadowy “group”) erased the duo’s memories so Mulder and Scully couldn’t remember him. According to him, there’s a government conspiracy that were trying to erase him from people’s memories.

The episode took on the popular Mandela Effect theory, in which groups of people misremember the same things. The theory is relatively new and is a popular Internet urban legend.

At first Mulder regarded Reggie as crazy during their first secret rendezvous. Reggie tried to prove his case by saying that Mulder’s favorite episode of The Twilight Zone called “The Lost Martian” never existed. It was just a false memory. Mulder tried to search for the episode in his collection of VHS tapes to prove him wrong but to no avail. Reggie also reached out to Scully and handed her a box of Goop-O ABC – her favorite childhood jelly. But according to Scully, when she tried to find it in stores over the years, people often told her there was no such thing and that she must be looking for Jell-O 123 instead.

Later in the episode, Mulder and Scully met with Reggie in the parking garage where most of their interactions happened. Reggie shared more of his discoveries about a cover-up by “they” on altered memories. When Mulder suggested that he’s experiencing the Mandela Effect theory, Reggie corrected him and claimed that the term was actually called Mengele Effect. He also revealed the real identity of “they.” It turned out that a guy named Dr. They was the mastermind of the Mengele Effect. Apparently, Dr. They altered people’s memories years ago that’s why they couldn’t even remember him.

But Mulder and Scully were not buying Reggie’s story so he dropped the ultimate bomb on them: he was part of the X-Files division in the FBI. Mulder and Scully were shocked of course.

Photo credit: x-files.wikia.com 

Now the episode took the comedy in the story further by cutting the scene midway and showing The X-Files’ opening credits, but this time with Reggie in it. Not only that, the succeeding scenes showed Reggie inserted into scenes taken from the show’s classic episodes such as the Pilot, “Tooms,” “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose,” “Home,” and “Small Potatoes.” I found this rather self-indulgent and overkill (Darin Morgan wrote two of these episodes and also guest-starred in one) but most fans thought it was a funny homage to the show.

When a frustrated Mulder tried to make sense of what Reggie said, he suddenly got a call from Dr. They himself who decided to show up and meet him at a public place. Reggie’s claims about Dr. They were validated when the doctor himself admitted to Mulder about masterminding the Mengele Effect and twisting the facts. To what end? Apparently, to control the future.

Photo credit: bloody-disgusting.com

The episode got a bit serious when Mulder and Dr. They had a deep conversation about what constitutes truth when there’s a proliferation of fake news in this day and age. Dr. They claimed that no matter if people are presented with the truth, they’re still left with a choice whether to believe it or not. People choose what they want to believe.

Does this mean that Reggie was right about everything all along? Not exactly. Mulder and Scully later found out that Reggie was actually a former government employee who served under various agencies including the National Security Agency (NSA). Apparently, Reggie had a nervous breakdown and was institutionalized. He only knew about Mulder and Scully and the X-Files division because he illegally wiretapped them in their office. In short, Reggie was mentally ill before he escaped from the hospital and made contact with Mulder. He was never a part of the X-Files division.

But what I don’t get here is that if Reggie’s claims were just a product of his mentally unstable condition, then where did Dr. They factor in all of this? Mulder had a personal interaction with the doctor himself so there might be some kind of truth in what Reggie said. Unless Dr. They was a mental patient himself in the same hospital as Reggie and escaped with him. That could explain it. As for Skinner knowing Reggie, I really think he could’ve met him through his various interactions with the other agencies in the government.

What I didn’t like about the episode was the ending where Reggie recounted his “last case” together with Mulder and Scully. The “last case” involved a UFO landing on Earth in which Mulder, Scully and Reggie had an encounter with the alien. It was all rather silly for me and there was too much Trump reference in the episode in general.

Photo credit: imdb.com

I didn’t love “The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat” but I didn’t hate it either. I guess it wasn’t just as funny as season 10’s “Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster” or Morgan’s episodes in previous seasons.

But I love what Scully said in the end when she said, “I want to remember how it was.” For me, I’d like to remember the show how it was:  just Mulder and Scully solving paranormal cases together – no Reggie in the picture.

Side Notes

  • I loved the opening scene where Mulder just arrived from “squatchin’”.
  • Mulder got indignant when Scully assumed he confused The Twilight Zone with The Outer Limits. I loved The Outer Limits by the way.
  • That scene of Mulder’s head on an eight-year-old boy’s body — fantastic shot.
  • Mulder’s idea of a date was a stake out in a parking garage. Oh come on Mulder, you can do better than that!
  • Spotnitz Sanitarium, the name written at the back of the ambulance – an obvious shoutout to fellow X-Files writer Frank Spotnitz.

Double Trouble: The X-Files S11x3 “Plus One” Review

January 20, 2018 at 7:09 PM | Posted in TV | Leave a comment
Tags: , , ,

SPOILER WARNING: This review contains major spoilers of The X-Files season 11. Read at your own risk!

When I first saw the trailer of the third episode of The X-Files season 11 titled “Plus One,” I thought it would be like a different take of season 1’s classic episode “Eve.” Old fans of The X-Files would know that “Eve” was about the story of two 12-year-old twin girls who had a penchant for killing people including their parents. They turned out to be products of a scientific experiment that clone humans.

But for some fans of the show, they feared that “Plus One” might be another “Fight Club” type of story. “Fight Club” was one of the least liked episodes of The X-Files. It featured a Mulder and Scully look-alike. I don’t even remember the story because I’d rather forget about it. That’s how bad the episode was.

Anyway, “Plus One” greatly differs in the sense that it tells the story of fraternal twins who play a deadly game of hangman. It’s interesting to note that this episode is written by Chris Carter. And surprisingly, it’s a lot better than expected. Carter might have messed up the “My Struggle” story arc but he surely made it up with this episode.

In the episode, we see Mulder and Scully investigating a case where a young man named Arkie sees his doppelganger who tries to kill him. What’s unique about his story is that he is the only known victim who survived such a similar attack. Apparently, several people in Virginia died after seeing their doppelganger. Their doppelgangers stalked them for days before finally killing them.

THE X-FILES: L-R: David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson in the “Plus One” episode of THE X-FILES airing Wednesday, Jan. 3 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. ©2017 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Shane Harvey/FOX

Further investigation leads Mulder and Scully to a patient at a mental ward. This patient, named Judy, suffers from schizophrenia and spends her days playing hangman telepathically with her twin brother Chucky. Chucky also happens to be a jail guard at the prison where Arkie was detained for a driving under the influence (DUI) case. He also suffers the same mental illness as his twin Judy. Eventually, Arkie gets murdered by his own doppelganger.

It’s worth noting that Karen Konoval, the actress who plays Judy in this episode, is the same actress who played Mrs. Peacock in the darkly disturbing and highly controversial episode “Home” from season 4. What’s even more interesting is that Konoval also plays Chucky in “Plus One.”

When I first saw “Plus One,” I didn’t know that Konoval was also the one playing Chucky. I mean, she was hardly recognizable as Chucky. She had her hair pulled back in a sleek and had a moustache and sideburns. Even her voice sounded male! I was amazed when I found out from several articles that it was her all along. She did a fantastic job playing the schizophrenic twins Judy and Chucky. Technically, she played four characters in all: Nice Judy, Nasty Judy, Nice Chucky and Nasty Chucky.

When Mulder and Scully first meet Judy at the mental ward, she exhibits the traits of Nice Judy – a soft-spoken, mild-mannered woman. But when Scully confronts her later on to ask about her connection to the murders, Judy becomes nasty. Mulder witnesses the same with Chucky when he goes to his house to inquire about the killings.

GIF image credit: mylifeasadeadmman.tumblr.com 

Later on, Mulder and Scully figure out that Judy and Chucky kill their victims by playing hangman. But this unique ability of theirs would also be the cause of their downfall when they decided to target Mulder and Scully as their next victims.

This episode actually creeped me out and gave me the chills. It’s classic X-Files at its best with its tone and intensity. Who knew that a game of hangman could be that intense and scary?

I only have minor complaints about this episode. For one, how come Mulder chanced upon the right patient in the mental ward? He could have checked several patients there before settling in on Judy. What made him decide to focus on Judy only? Second, I don’t buy that Scully would take the bread pills herself given that she’s a medical doctor and she would know that those pills have no “super powers.”

Photo credit: badtv.it

Also, Scully was hesitant to share a bedroom with Mulder at a motel in Virginia. They used to live together as seen in the I Want to Believe movie before Chris Carter decided to break them up (because Mulder is allegedly depressed) in the revival series. There’s no need for Scully to be wary (for lack of a better word) of Mulder.

Breadcrumbs

  • Mulder and Scully spooning and talking about their lives when they retire. “I’ll push your wheelchair… with my wheelchair.” — Mulder. I loved this!
  • “Scully, put a dimmer on that afterglow.” — Mulder. Mulder and Scully definitely did it. Enough said!
  • ATTHS (And then they had sex) again!
  • The skittish nurses were rather scene stealers.
  • Why was Nasty Judy holding cans of dookie in the first place?

Absolute Virtual Reality: The X-Files S11x2 “This” Review

January 19, 2018 at 8:39 PM | Posted in TV | Leave a comment
Tags: , , ,

SPOILER WARNING: This review contains major spoilers of The X-Files season 11. Read at your own risk!

What would you do if you receive a video transmission of an old friend who’s been dead for years? This is what Mulder and Scully found themselves in one evening while dozing off on a couch. Yup, it’s another X-File to solve.

The second episode of The X-Files season 11 titled, “This” delves into technology and virtual reality and how humans can live forever through artificial means. The story is also still connected to the show’s season 11 premiere episode as it references the warring factions within the Syndicate – the second group of which is now being headed by new villains Mr. Y and Erika Price. Price also appears in this episode.

Photo credit: dailymail.co.uk

In “This,” Mulder and Scully were contacted by their old friend Richard Langly through a video transmission on Mulder’s phone. Avid X-Philes know that Langly was one of the three members of The Lone Gunmen, a trio of conspiracy theorists and hackers who would often help Mulder and Scully in their investigation of X-File cases. The thing is, Langly and the rest of The Lone Gunmen died 16 years ago. So how come Langly was still able to contact Mulder and Scully and sent them a cryptic message?

But before Mulder and Scully could find out, they were attacked by Russian mercenaries sent by Price. Walter Skinner managed to help them escape. There was new tension between Mulder and Scully and Skinner as the duo suspected that their boss might be working with the Russian mercenaries and the Cigarette Smoking Man.

Photo credit: aceshowbiz.com

Wanting to investigate Langly’s cryptic message and see if he was still indeed alive, Mulder and Scully went to Arlington Cemetery where The Lone Gunmen were buried years ago. There they found a clue which forced them to seek Skinner again for help. They found out from him that the X-Files were now digitized by the Russians hired by the FBI – the same group that attacked them in Mulder’s home.

Now there’s a loophole in this part. In season 10 of The X-Files, Mulder and Scully were reinstated to the X-Files division by the FBI. So if the X-Files were previously digitized by the Russians when Mulder and Scully were away from the FBI, shouldn’t they have known that right away when they went back to work for the FBI again? This didn’t add up to the timeline.

Anyway, Mulder and Scully’s investigation led them to Professor Karen Hamby who turned out to be Langly’s significant other. Hamby informed them about a secret computer simulation program being done by the Syndicate. The program involves uploading people’s consciousness onto a computer. When a person dies, his preserved consciousness will be activated on the computer and thus, that person continues to live in digital form. That’s apparently what happened to Langly. He and Hamby joined the program so that they could live forever. His video transmission to Mulder was just a product of simulation.

Most people who watched “This” thought that it’s a Black Mirror-inspired episode. While that may be true, the episode’s premise is not new.  I’ve seen a similar story in an obscure Johnny Depp movie called Transcendence, where Depp’s character uploaded his brain onto a computer before he died.

Later in the episode, Mulder and Scully received a second message from Langly while taking a break at Chili’s. Now this scene has gotten a lot of buzz from Mulder and Scully relationshippers (a.k.a  MSR fans). Apparently, Chili’s was part of a significant scene in a smut fanfiction written by an MSR fan years ago. I don’t usually read smut fanfic even though I’m a shipper myself so I didn’t get the Chili’s reference until other shippers pointed it out and Gillian Anderson herself hinted at it in a tweet. Shippers suspected that Gillian must have read the fanfic.

Photo credit: nerdist.com

Anyway, Langly divulged more information about the computer simulation program to Mulder and Scully when they were at Chili’s. He directed them to go to Titanpointe, the codename of a windowless skyscraper in Manhattan where the Syndicate’s secret program is being kept including the servers. He wanted them to stop the simulation program as people like him were only being used by the Syndicate as digital slaves to serve the elite.

Titanpointe is actually a real building in Manhattan called Long Lines Building. It is known to be the surveillance hub of the National Security Agency (NSA). I have seen a short documentary film about Titanpointe back in 2016 called Project X so I instantly recognized the building when I watched the episode.

What I want to know is why did it take Langly 16 years to contact Mulder and Scully? Since Langly was in a virtual world all this time, shouldn’t he suspected early on that his world was just a simulation? He knew that the sun was fake and had no warmth and that no one in that world dies of sickness and disease, so why did it take him so long to figure that out?

GIF image credit: gabehcoud.tumblr.com

What also irked me in this episode is that Mulder mumbled a lot. I could barely hear what he was saying that I had to turn up the volume every time I watch the episode. But despite of that, I enjoyed the ease and intimacy that Mulder and Scully had in this episode. They’re clearly in that place where they might be back together soon (or are they?) judging from the fact that Scully spends most of her personal time at Mulder’s home and she referred to the house as “our home.”

Their romantic relationship was woven into the episode seamlessly without it getting in the way of the story. Kudos to Glen Morgan who wrote this episode. Now that is how you write romance into the show without losing focus on the main plot.

Overall, “This” was a lot better than “My Struggle III.” It had action, mystery, light comedy and a healthy dose of classic paranoia that The X-Files is known for.

Next Page »

Blog at WordPress.com.
Entries and comments feeds.