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Sharna Pax

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  1. X-Files song-a-thon!

    This John Prine song came out this spring, and it strikes me as just right for "Nothing Lasts Forever"-era Mulder and Scully. It was the line about New Year's Eve that first caught my attention, but really the whole song reminds me of them. It's about age, and heading into a new season of life, and missing someone you used to be close to, and reconciliation and forgiveness. Fair warning: if there's anyone you miss right now, it might make you cry.
  2. S01.E12: Prophecy Girl

    This one of my favorite episodes of television of all time. I think it gets overlooked a bit because most season finales tend to be huge sweeping epics that cover two or three episodes, and this one very efficiently wraps everything up in 45 minutes. However, just think about everything the episode accomplishes in those 45 minutes. 1. The pacing! Good lord, how did they fit so many iconic scenes into a single episode without it feeling rushed? We start out with ordinary, day-to-day teen angst - Xander trying to ask Buffy out, and Buffy rejecting him - and it's genuinely moving. We have time to feel for both Buffy and Xander. And then there's the prophecy, and we watch as Buffy absorbs the news, as she breaks down, as she tries to run away - and then as she gradually comes to accept that this is what she has to do. And the show makes all this character growth convincing, so that when Buffy goes off to meet the Master at the end, we know that she understands exactly what she's doing. We know how much this decision is costing her, and we know why she makes it. 2. This is related to my first point, but this is also the episode where every single major character comes into their own. Giles steps into the father figure role for good, refusing to let Buffy confront the Master and insisting on doing it himself. Xander and Angel put aside their mutual dislike and join forces to help Buffy - Xander going to Angel for help, Angel asking Xander to step in when Buffy needs mouth-to-mouth. Willow manages to get across to Buffy what it will be like if the Master wins, with her speech about the murder at the school. Buffy's mom tries so hard to help - the dress is a lovely effort - but is so heartbreakingly incapable of understanding what's going on. And Cordelia, of course, reveals her true colors as a badass who's willing to drive a car into the school if she has to. By the end of this episode, we know every character ten times better than we did at the beginning. And I think it's because - and this is unusual for the season finale of this kind of show - there's far more focus on character development than on action. The episode isn't really about Buffy's fight with the Master, which takes up very little time. It's about Buffy reaching the point where she is willing to fight the Master, knowing that she will die. And finally, Sarah Michelle Gellar's acting is brilliant here. She and Anthony Stewart Head are so good in the scene where Buffy learns about the prophecy - it's genuinely heartbreaking when Buffy says, "Giles, I'm sixteen years old. I don't want to die." So yeah, this may not be the Buffy episode that's usually ranked the highest, but it's up there with "Crosetti" from Homicide, Life on the Street and "Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose" from The X-Files on my personal list of Best Episodes of TV Ever.
  3. S03.E01: Anne

    I love this episode. It's cheesy as all hell, but I love seeing Buffy do good on such a small, human scale. Most of the time, Buffy shows up and kicks ass and saves someone's life and you never see them again or have any idea how this affected them. But in this episode, Buffy has to actively engage with Lily as a human being and help her again and again over the course of the episode. And yes, Buffy eventually takes up her hammer and sickle and liberates the oppressed workers, but that alone doesn't save Lily. What saves her is Buffy getting her a job and giving her a place to live with the rent paid up for the first month. And not only that - when Lily takes the name Anne, you see how much Buffy has been a role model to her, just by existing. Even at her lowest point, Buffy is able to live her life and do her job and be independent, and just seeing that has made Lily realize that she can do the same thing. So it's an episode about how we can help each other out, and specifically about how women can help each other out, and though Buffy's superpowers come into it, they're not really the main story at all. And I love, love, love, that Angel follows up on this story and gives you periodic glimpses of Anne's life as a community organizer/ social worker, doing for others what Buffy did for her. She even comes into the last episode of Angel - as Angel & Co. are running around in the foreground being heroic and gearing up for the big fight, there's Anne in the background, just doggedly going about her work, running the homeless shelter, taking care of the people she's responsible for. She becomes this wonderful representation of practical, everyday heroism, and it's a lovely reminder - like Prom, but more subtle - of how much good Buffy has done without even knowing it.
  4. Yes, I love that. The sort of absent way he says it, as if he's barely aware of who he's talking to.
  5. Just watched a couple from Season 3: Nisei/731 and Wetwired. The Nisei two-parter was one I didn't remember much - not being one for the mythology - and I thought it was great. The dialogue is sparkly and zingy and fun, which is rare for a mythology ep - I think it must be the Spotnitz influence. I particularly like all the goofiness about Mulder's $29.95 alien autopsy video, and Scully saying, "This is even hokier than the one they showed on the Fox network!" It's the rare Scully line that would work equally well for Lisa Simpson. And I like the moment when Skinner shows up and Mulder goes, "Oh, look, a beacon in the night!" But good Lord, if I were Scully this is the episode where I would quit. First there's the creepy, creepy scene where she walks up to a house she's never been to and it's full of women who claim to know her from her abduction. Then they all creepily, silently hold up alien implants identical to hers, and then they tell her she's dying. To which Mulder's reaction is, "Well, that's disturbing, but let's hold that thought until I'm done jumping onto a moving train." And then, as if it weren't enough that she's probably dying of cancer and her partner just jumped onto a train that's about to explode, she meets a bunch of people with late-stage leprosy who take her to a massive pit full of dead bodies. At that point, I would be DONE. Cancer + leprosy + death pits + partner trapped on an exploding train? Sorry, but I am OUT. Wetwired is an interesting one. I've always liked it, but I forgot how much of it happens after Scully's mom talks her down. I thought it would end with Scully in her hospital bed and nothing solved or answered. But there's that whole coda where X kills the men responsible, and Mulder almost kills X, and then you see X getting in a car with the Smoking Man and you get the sense he's not long for this world. I hadn't realized how much this episode is here to set up everything that's coming at the beginning of Season 4. Mulder nerving himself to go identify Scully's body always kills me. And the look on his face as he watches Mrs. Scully do what he can't do and talk Scully down. I see some anxiety, and some frustration with himself that he can't get through to her after all, but mostly just admiration for Mrs. Scully's courage and presence of mind. Mulder is totally not red-green colorblind, though. I don't care what he says. He knows Scully's a redhead.
  6. Season 2: Ascending To The Stars

    I also rewatched One Breath, and if I let myself start talking about how much I love this episode I'll be here all night. But here's one thing I noticed this time around: in the scene at the end where Mulder gets the call, we cut away just as his face starts to light up. We never see his full smile, just the start of it. It's such a lovely little directorial choice. I'm not sure just why I find it so affecting, but it really works.
  7. Season 2: Ascending To The Stars

    So I just rewatched 3, which is a total guilty pleasure for me. I think I might be the only person on the planet who likes this episode. And I can't argue that it's a good episode, because it's objectively a terribly written PG-13 erotic thriller, and Perrey Reeves's acting is hypnotically bad. But I just love seeing what a complete trainwreck Mulder is when he's grieving for Scully. Sure, it's cliched and slushy and over-the top, what with the not sleeping and the "I work alone" and the vampire sex, but it still reels me right in. It's interesting to see Mulder taking a more restrained, scientific approach to this case than he normally would. He assumes the killers are just playing at being vampires, he doesn't start thinking they might actually be vampires until his suspect burns to death, and even then he's very cautious about drawing conclusions. He doesn't tell the medical examiner what he's looking for because he doesn't want to prejudice his findings. It's like he's trying to compensate for Scully's absence by approaching the case the way she would. But where you really see the effects of Scully's absence is in Mulder's total lack of boundaries when it comes to the investigation. Normally, whenever he gets too personally involved with a case, Scully's there to rein him in. Here he's so immersed he doesn't know where he ends and the case begins. There's no borderline between investigation time and personal time; it all just bleeds together. He doesn't check into a motel because he doesn't sleep anymore; he spends the night prowling around weird blood/sex clubs - maybe investigating, maybe picking up women - who knows? So of course protecting Kristen turns into sleeping with her - it's not just that she's dangerous and he's feeling self-destructive, it's not just that he's lonely and unhappy, it's also that he no longer has any sense of why he shouldn't do this. On a shallower note, I also appreciate getting to see Mulder just straight-up make out with someone, even if it's not Scully.
  8. Hey, thanks for the thoughtful response. I'm sure you're right that it's better to watch the episode; I just can't handle it. I had a hard time with the 9th-season finale, and it bummed me out about the show in general, so I don't want to let this one become real to me. But for that reason I should back off from commenting on it. One last tiny thing, though - I really wasn't trying to say that Mulder would be selfish to think about his own feelings. Just that the Mulder I saw in Ghouli seemed to be actively resisting thinking about his own feelings - he seemed to be closing off his own emotional responses and only thinking about Scully's. So it wasn't a question of what I thought Mulder should do, just what I thought he would do. On a totally unrelated note, here's a random Mulder thought that jumped into my head the other day: There are some Fox Mulder qualities I don't particularly want to have, but I do aspire to give presents with even one-tenth of the joy and confidence with which Mulder gives Scully that keychain and that baseball lesson. The man knows how to give a gift. I would also like to have a tiny portion of Mulder's chill on airplanes. Me, I go through barely perceptible turbulence and my life flashes before my eyes. Mulder can be on a plane that's simultaneously crashing and being hijacked by aliens, and he'll just curl up and take a nap.
  9. My mistake; I thought from descriptions of the episode that Mulder had killed CSM because CSM killed William, and that Scully was trying to console Mulder about William's death. So they're rejecting him while believing he's still alive, just because they now know he was an experiment and not biologically Mulder's? Good lord, that's even worse than I thought. And that, right there, is the reason I won't be watching the episode. I probably shouldn't have joined this discussion at all, because I find the idea of Mulder executing a bunch of people and Scully rejecting William so out of character that I prefer to think none of this actually happened. But that was what I was trying to focus on in my earlier comment - the fact that this is not part of my mental canon, so I prefer to think about Mulder and fatherhood in the context of earlier episodes. I was trying to articulate some small part of why the dialogue I've seen rings false to me, and to be honest it still does, despite what I now know about the context. So I still think we'll have to agree to disagree, in the sense that you like the line and I don't, and I don't think either side is going to change the other's mind at this point. I do appreciate the additional context, though. (And I have mad respect for DD's acting skills, so I'm sure he rocked that line, regardless of whether I think that scene should have been written or not.) Edited to add: One thing I thought, when I read that line (and maybe I would have reacted differently if I'd heard it) is that it's the kind of idea that I find more powerful, from a storytelling point of view, when the show doesn't explicitly articulate it but instead leads the viewer to ask it. And thinking about that got me thinking about places earlier in the show where I thought something along those lines about Mulder, and I landed, as I always do, on Closure. Mulder has had such an odd relationship with parenthood over the course of the show. There's that moment in the Season 9 finale when he says he's thinking about his son, and it's clear that the thought of William, the thought of fatherhood, is what's sustaining him. But he has to give that up so quickly. For most of the show, from the pilot on, Mulder is sort of fatherhood-adjacent - not exactly a father, not exactly not one either. The search for Samantha is what defines him for so much of the show, and I think he fundamentally stepped into the role of guardian to Samantha very early on, as the adult willing to take responsibility for trying to find her. And as he gets older, and the age gap between him and the Samantha he remembers widens, he starts to seem more and more like a parent with a missing child. And you see him talking to, and obviously identifying with, one grieving parent after another. So by the time Closure comes along, I get the sense that one reason why he's so reluctant to know the truth is that the search for Samantha has defined him for so long. It's been both wound and bow; he needs that wound to heal so he can lead something approaching a normal life, but at the same time, he will be a different person without that search to drive him. And one aspect of that difference is, I think, the loss of that sense of parenthood, guardianship, whatever you want to call it.
  10. Well, I think at this point we'll have to agree to disagree. As I said, I haven't seen the episode, and you have. But I did want to clarify one thing. I wasn't saying that it's an inappropriate thing for Mulder to be feeling. It's his timing I was questioning. I don't think it's a line that Mulder would say to Scully moments after her son died.
  11. Sure! I should acknowledge, though, that I haven't actually seen the episode, just read about it. I'm avoiding watching it because I don't want it to become part of my mental canon, so bear in mind that anything I say could be wildly wrong. It's an ambiguous line. It could be about Mulder finding out he's not William's biological father, but I think it's mostly Mulder's response to seeing his son - or the boy he's thought of as his son - apparently killed in front of him. "Who am I if I'm not a father?" "Who am I if I'm not a mother?" - this is something that parents go through who lose their only children. And that means that Scully is going through the same thing. She had a son, and now she doesn't, and so to say, "Who am I if I'm not a father?" is effectively to ask, "Who are you if you're not a mother?" (Add to that Scully's line, "I was never a mother to him," and it's clear that Scully is already questioning her own relationship to William.) So I have a few problems with that line. One, while it's a realistic thing to think after the loss of a child, it seems like the kind of thought that would come later, after Mulder has had a chance to process William's death. Right now he should still be in shock - reflecting on his own loss of identity would come later, and slower, I think. Two, it makes the moment all about him, and I think the Mulder we've seen this season would be entirely focused on Scully. And three, I would like to think that Mulder, even at a moment of tremendous shock, would be sensitive enough to realize the effect that a question like that could have on a woman who had just lost her only child.
  12. Season 6: Humongous Fungus Among Us

    I just tried to watch Dreamland and had to give up almost immediately because I found it too painful. Is that weird, that I find it so hard to watch? The second half, when Scully knows what's going on, is easier to handle, but all the deception and confusion and miscommunication in the first half just upsets me on some visceral level. There's something about body-swap episodes that almost inevitably does that to me. (God, the look on Mulder's face as Scully leaves with Morris the first time. It's exactly the look I see in my dog's eyes whenever I leave the house and don't take him with me.) There are some moments in Dreamland that I just love, though. I am always here for a Marx Brothers homage, and one day I will sit down and watch the original mirror dance, Mulder's mirror dance, and the one from Magic Mike XXL all in a row. Mulder giving Scully a handful of sunflower seeds is such a lovely, poignant, perfectly in-character way to say goodbye. And Scully's opening monologue in the car always gets me humming "Two of Us:" Two of us riding nowhere Spending someone's Hard earned pay Two of us Sunday driving Not arriving On our way back home (Maybe that should go in the Songs thread. But really, isn't "You and me burning matches, lifting latches" perfect for two people who have made a career out of opening doors with flashlights in their hands?) I love that Mulder's response is just, "This is a normal life." It's an interesting slant on the character; this version of Mulder at least isn't spinning his wheels, waiting for his life to start. This is his life, and he's okay with that. So I guess my feelings about Dreamland are a lot like my feelings about Season 6 as a whole: sometimes cringe-inducing, sometimes painful, hard to watch in its entirety, but shot through with these moments and ideas that I absolutely love.
  13. I can see that. I guess part of the way I engage with the X-Files - because it's such a gloriously messy, imperfect, self-contradicting show, that's made so many bizarre choices over the years but also reached such astonishing heights - is by thinking about what I want to accept as part of my own personal X-Files canon and what I want to pretend didn't happen. So I don't personally feel the rage at Chris Carter that I think a lot of people do, because when he gets extra Chris Carter-y I just stop listening. But that means there are certain points at which I also stop fully engaging with the story, because it doesn't seem like a story so much as an unending series of very similar traumas. So although I do like to think about what fatherhood means to Mulder, I have a hard time centering that discussion around that line from the finale, because that line and the finale in general have completely and totally lost me. And I'm sorry if I spun off into a rant about how and why it lost me instead of really answering the question. In reality, though, I was completely on board by the end of Ghouli. I loved seeing Mulder suppress his feelings about William but then allow himself that little bit of dawning hope at the end. It gave me hope, too, that Mulder might someday have a relationship with William - maybe not the version of fatherhood that he envisioned, but a version that would be meaningful. And if Chris Carter had brought the level of storytelling to the finale that James Wong brought to Ghouli, and if he had been as honest and thoughtful in his portrayal of the characters - regardless of what actually happened in the episode - then I would have an easier time entering into a serious discussion of that line and what it means. But it's not really a line that I can see Mulder saying, mainly because to undercut his own parental identity is also to undercut Scully's, and I don't think the Mulder who was so self-effacing and quietly supportive in Ghouli would do that.
  14. Season 6: Humongous Fungus Among Us

    Here I am, spamming the thread again. Milagro is one that I rewatched fairly recently, though I'm not sure why, because I never liked it. I think in the past I always focused on the relentless purple prose voiceovers and "Agent Scully is already in love," a line which annoys me in a multitude of ways. This time through what jumped out at me is that neither Mulder nor Scully uses the word "stalker." I can't remember exactly how Scully words it, when she first tells Mulder about Padgett, but it's weirdly flowery and circuitous, even for the X-Files. And Mulder doesn't seem nearly as concerned as he should be at the idea that his next-door neighbor is stalking Scully, and I'm concerned that this show doesn't know what stalking is, any more than it knows what medical rape is. It actually seems like Mulder's response to Scully being stalked is to get suspicious of her, and I would be mad at him for that but it's all of a piece with this episode's weird, weird sexual politics. Anyway, I was thinking about the whole meta aspect of the episode, and it made me think of an episode of Classic Doctor Who called The Mind Robber, where the characters find themselves in the Land of Fiction. The great danger, in that episode, is a constantly running ticker tape that narrates the characters' adventures a moment before they happen. If the characters do exactly what is written for them - if they grab the sword and slay the dragon, or what have you - they become fictionalized and are trapped forever in the land of fiction. So it's partly about the idea that characters - real characters, like the Doctor and his companions - act in a way that their creators didn't anticipate. But it's also about the risk of letting another person's vision of you guide your actions. Now, I think Milagro is also supposed to be about both those things - it's about Mulder and Scully and their growing independence as characters, but it's also about the danger of being trapped by another person's image of you. But it's so very muddled in the way it tries to explore these ideas that it totally undercuts them both. If this is an episode about Mulder and Scully's independence from their creator, why does Scully spend the whole episode drifting around like she has no agency at all? If Scully is able to resist Padgett's hold on her because she's in love with Mulder, why do we never see her resisting it? Why does she drift into his bedroom, when she obviously doesn't feel comfortable being there? Does Scully, in fact, resist being fictionalized? Who even is she? What does she want? What draws her to Padgett, if indeed she is at all drawn to him? I can't tell. And it seems like a terrible mistake for this episode that should celebrate Scully's personality and independence to instead turn her into a zombie with nice legs. On another note, Padgett's book sounds really terrible. On top of the awful, awful prose, it sounds like the plot is just a series of identical murders intercut with sex scenes. Why would a writer that bad have any power over anyone, let alone Scully?
  15. Season 6: Humongous Fungus Among Us

    I don't mind Season 7 - in fact, I quite like it. Yes, it bugs me that Mulder and Scully's relationship is unacknowledged, as I think the season fundamentally ended up being about the relationship and the way it was changing Mulder and Scully's lives and priorities. And it doesn't really make any sense to have a season about a relationship that doesn't acknowledge that relationship's existence. But at least the dynamic we're shown in Season 7 feels consistent. Mulder and Scully seem to be together, in some sense, and to be happy about it, so even if we never know the details of their relationship, I still trust that they have it worked out. What bothers me about Season 6 is that Mulder and Scully aren't together, as far as I can tell, and yet there's no good reason why not. If you leave out Season 6, the arc of the Mulder-Scully relationship makes sense to me. Yes, it takes them forever to get together, but there are reasons for that. They're partners, so they're not supposed to think of each other romantically. They've been through Scully's abduction and her cancer, and Mulder's response to both of those experiences has been to try to reset their partnership to where it was before the trauma, as if there's some kind of safety and stability in keeping things exactly the same. And of course their friendship is so important to them that they don't want to jeopardize it. So it makes sense to me that they would get to the end of Season 5 before declaring their feelings for each other. But once they do that - as they do in the movie - there's no reasonable way for them to go back. If we had gone straight from the movie to the kind of dynamic we see in Rush, I think I would have loved it. For Mulder and Scully to slooowly inch their way toward a relationship, but then commit to it and enjoy it once they get there? That would have been a lovely depiction of a functional relationship between two adults who know what they want. But instead, we get an entire season of stalling. By now, Mulder and Scully know how they feel about each other, and yet they're not together, and there's no good way to explain that except by having them both act like irrational children all the time. So we get the awful Fowley love triangle, we get Mulder taking back everything he said in the movie, we get episode after episode where Mulder and Scully make some kind of connection in a dream sequence or an alternate reality or where their memories get erased. We have endless secondary characters yelling "YOU TWO LOVE EACH OTHER NOW MAKE OUT!" at Mulder and Scully to no effect. (And though I love The Unnatural with a passion, it is absolutely ridiculous to think Mulder and Scully didn't have sex after that baseball lesson. No two people who are attracted to each other AT ALL can stand like that for any length of time without at least making out. It is a scientific impossibility. Also, that's clearly why Mulder set the lesson up the way he did. A man does not teach a woman to play baseball in that particular fashion unless he's trying to get in her pants.) So to me, the problem with Season 6 is not the individual episodes - it's that the overall arc of the season asks me to believe things about the Mulder/Scully relationship that just don't make sense. I think most of the romantic-comedy episodes work just fine as stand-alones, especially if you assume that Mulder and Scully hooked up right after the credits rolled. What doesn't work is the way their relationship gets rolled right back to zero for the start of the next romantic-comedy episode, so that the episode can once again end with them just on the verge of hooking up for the first time.