Thursday, February 26, 2009

Decoding "Gethsemane" et al

I'm not sure what the catalyst was, but a little while ago I decided to start re-watching my X-Files sets from season one up with the intention of experiencing the entire mythology, now armed with 20/20 hindsight. As big a fan of the show as I was during its run, by the time things started changing in some of the later seasons (somewhere around 7-9, I'd guess) I could no longer keep track of the most basic threads of the mythology. Not only that, but I didn't quite feel the "Holy Christ!" impact I was supposed to during some of the series' major turning points, and I felt a little bit cheated by that.

I blamed myself, of course. Since I followed the behind the scenes stuff as closely as I followed the on-air show, I always heard or read interviews where the writers all seemed to see how all the little bits of connective tissue were working together. Being in the writer's room would give you that advantage, I suppose. Still, I had to ask myself, could I have paid closer attention? Have I forgotten some precious detail that would act as the Rosetta Stone to all of this hybrid/cloning/invasion/super-soldier gobbledeygook? It's possible, but I know I'm not the only fan who started getting lost when one lie would overlap another lie which would eventually lead to a truth that seemed innocuous but was really a major revelation that you didn't realize was one until much later in the show. The relationship between Mulder and Scully was always tracking fine for me but when we got something like the info dump that was Fight the Future or when the secret cabal was eventually destroyed by the other aliens with the melty faces, so much had led up to those moments by that point that my reaction was very much a surface one and the connective tissue that you knew the writers had in their heads appeared to be missing from a fan's perspective.

So far, 20/20 hindsight viewing has proven to me that knowing the ending, or just the broad strokes, really does help with the earlier bits that eventually lead you there. Watching the mythology track has been really fun and I've finally been able to just sit back and enjoy the episodes rather than trying to put the puzzle pieces together week after week. Knowing what's coming has also left me with a lot of questions about plot points that I'm waiting to see play out, but that's the whole point of the exercise, isn't it?

I have hit one speed bump so far in the form of the episodes "Gethsemane", "Redux" and "Redux II". The season 4 ender and the season 5 opener serves as a restatement of the mythology and attempts to send it off in a direction that will drive it headlong into the first feature film, Fight the Future, but I'm just totally derailed right now. It could be because I've watched it in interrupted bits and pieces, but this real alien/fake alien-Scully Cancer-Kritschgau snitching-Mulder dead-lying to the sub-committee plot is driving me a little bananas. It doesn't feel like it runs together too smoothly and that is actually surprising me a bit because, especially coming off the amazing season 4, I remember these episodes as being huge landmark events for the show and loving them the first time around. There are some beautiful character moments, and thematically there is some interesting things happening, but at this stage, I'm thinking the writers may have dropped the ball as early as this rather than much later on as I'd guessed.

I'll try them again when I have some time on my hands but do it in all one sitting this time. Maybe I'll have a better opinion of it then.



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