9.1: Nothing Important Happened Today
I said this of Season 8 and its super soldiers, but for all the failings of the new myth-arc, I’m just glad it’s doing something different, and told with some pace and urgency. The Season 9 opener(s) isn’t, I get the impression, the most popular of beasts, somewhere between being despised for no longer featuring Mulder and decried as including a not-up-to-snuff central conceit. My salient objection is that Scully’s presence in the show is now an active dead weight around its neck, and The X-Files would be far better served simply allowing Doggett and Reyes to get on with it.
Rob Shearman particularly savages these opening episodes. Actually, he savages everything in the season’s myth arc, which is… well, the latter part is largely fair enough, but with these two, it feels almost arbitrary, particularly when he keeps coming back to the charge of out-of-character behaviour. For all that the show is guilty of failing to allow its characters to progress, one thing it does consistently is apply the whims of the momentary plotting to them, an abiding frustration. So it happening here is nothing so unusual.
Doggett: These people tried to kill me. They tried to kill AD Skinner. They wanted to kill Mulder, too. They’re still out there, Dana.
Scully: Exactly right, and they are unstoppable, and they are inside the FBI.
So now it’s John on a mission, to bring down Kersh, who’s soooooo evil (but next episode….) Honestly, when Shearman says this is dull, I can only respond that it’s more engrossing than any number of previous seasons’ arc episode’s he’s showered with garlands. I certainly don’t understand his objections to the Kersh plot (petty? It’s far and away more dramatically interesting than CSM and Mulder one he cites, the only issue being it isn’t sustained for more than three episodes). I’d only agree with him in respect of the Scully strand, where it’s all “Mulder leaves” (but there’s no actual Duchovny to do so) and “John wants to find him” (but there’s no chance cos Duchovny’s gone), and Scully tells him to sling his hook because she’s worried over spooky William. It’s pretty awful, the kind of thing that derails the show’s mojo, since too much of it is now given over to an inert, passive plot.
Reyes: I know exactly what you’re doing, Brad. Don’t forget to piss on all the corners before you leave.
But Shearman, as one who prizes the show’s emotional beats, is let down by Scully the defeated mother, and Reyes the town bike (because Cary Elwes’ Brad Follmer is so smarmy). I rather enjoy Elwes’ shameless rotter performance, and Reyes, who only ever appears to be putting up with his shit, gets a downvote for her bleedin’-obvious Scully autopsying suck up (“I’m just impressed that you can do this”), but not so much anything else. This week, you’ve also got Skinner instructing Doggett to back off, which appears to be down to “protecting” Mulder and Scully, but it creates an effective degree of friction, however contrived.
Carl Wormus: No big secret. It’s been in the news. Government additive. Something they call chloramine.
Shannon McMahon: Yeah, they say that’s good for us, it’s like fluoride or something.
As far as the main plot goes, Lucy Lawless is a welcome presence as super soldier and former Doggett army buddy Shannon McMahon; we’re alert that something nasty must be going on as soon as this mysterious water supply additive is compared to fluoride (since we all know that stuff’s evil shit). Shannon variously drowns a water company guy and looks like she’s going to do likewise to John at the cliffhanger. Leading up to the latter incident, Doggett is pursued by Follmer as he attempts to locate evidence at a water reclamation facility.
As season openers go, Kim Manner directs Nothing Important Happened Today with accustomed drive and urgency. Mainly, though, what appeals here is that we’re seeing players in different places, such as Doggett out on a limb, trying to do things his way. The terrain has shifted somewhat (again), and it’s as engrossing as the previous season finale (as these things go, it may not be up to the Seasons 7 or 8’s openers, but its streets ahead of 4-6.