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That’s me, and I never even went in that building.


The X-Files
8.14: This Is Not Happening


I have to admit, I find the aliens’ modus operandi here fairly flimsy. One might almost think they’ve devised it with a long-running TV show in mind, and all the tenuous grasp of logic, coherence and method that entails. Quite apart from leaving their test subjects open to retrieval by enemy aliens (or alien), it seems careless in the extreme, and prone to discovery and pointed inquiry, just dumping half-dead bodies in the wilds and waiting for them to revitalise themselves.

Of course, even Chris Carter admitted – rare, I know – that the mechanics of the myth-arc became a little obscure during the final run. And in its considerable favour, This Is Not Happening is much more engrossing on balance than it isn’t. Sure, we’ve got Scully alternating between frosty bitch and weepy wreck again, and Doggett being wilfully dense. But the return of Roy Thinnes as Jeremiah Smith is most welcome, even as he represents a typically underused character.

It’s a testament to his assured presence that, while he’s only in three episodes, he casts a much longer shadow. It’s a relief Carter didn’t bring him back just to kill him off, but his popping up here after four seasons away is indicative there was no real plan for using him in the first place. Actually, I say a relief; apparently, it’s been suggested by Carter et al that he was abducted by the dirty great UFO at the end (and so killed). Although, I think my retcon that he escaped is as good as any conceived by Carter.

Scully’s very much in the dark, lacking the subtlety Mulder might show in such situations, such that she needs to be told “You’re putting people in danger… I save them. I’m the only one”. The UFO cult saving abductees is an engaging enough conceit, and Judson Scott of Star Trek II brings a certain wide-eyed sincerity and zeal to its leader Absolom. There’s also a certain verisimilitude to his retooling the apocalypse to his own ends (his group was of the millennialist invasion persuasion, but now he’s having to take a slightly different tack: all very Second Coming).

Doggett’s does-not-compute really ought to earn more rebuke than it does here, given he’s experienced enough by this point to know better (but then, so had Scully, for seven years). He doesn’t want to hear tales of alien bounty hunters and refuses to believe his own eyes, even when confronted by shapeshifting. He denies it’s Jeremiah while also attesting “That’s me, and I never went into that building”.

I’m in the minority in that I quite like Monica Reyes. Or rather, I quite like Annabeth Gish’s performance. In common with Patrick, she struggles commendably with some absolutely horrid writing and characterisation, and as such, I can understand why some have it in for her. Writing her in the flaky way she is here, as some kind of Deanna Troi clone – the last character you want to be copying, as Galaxy Quest archly identified – does her no favours. As such, she’s required to repeat as a mantra how she’s open and vaguely has “certain spiritual notions, energies the universe cosmic”. If she had any genuine awareness, she wouldn’t engage in cod psychology and trite advice (“But I am feeling your fear. Maybe you can try and stay open too”; approaching John about the loss of his son).

And then there’s her assessment on her specialised subject of satanic ritual abuse: “We never found any evidence”. I mean, WTF? Perhaps that should have been the writing on the wall that she would was a bad ‘un who would team up with CSM (yeah, I know, she was just “pretending”), since it’s following the official line note by note. Such that Scully is required to respond “We should talk some time” (how many X-cases have involved Satanism, I asked myself, as none sprang immediately to mind. It’s curious, though, that she should come on the scene with that as her boast, since the whole super soldier/ MKUltra/ ritually abused furrow is interlinked in the conspirasphere. Not that The X-Files would have gone there directly, unless instructed.

Reyes smokes Morleys and miraculously happens across a UFO dropping off Mulder. Lucky that. I like the idea of Reyes, I guess, and in a couple of scenes, I like that she confounds Scully’s preconceptions: “I don’t not believe”. Notably, she’s right about the UFO cult, and if Carter weren’t so heavy-handed in characterising her – doubtless in an effort to give her Mulder intuition but not too much like Mulder – she’d have had the potential for being the most winning character of the bunch. Instead, she resulted in the most vitriol. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was this that led to Carter treating her so badly in the return.

Anyway, this is a good episode, now we’ve got through the sludge of searching for Mulder and retconning the last year. Skinner’s not much use being a shoulder for Scully to cry on – it isn’t his best foot forward – so he can go back to being grouched at when Mulder’s once more on the prowl. There’s a conversation about the freemasonic universe (starlight is billions of years old, you know), but at least Skinner’s put some pants on by that point. The thing that puts me off is that I can’t really dive into the “Mulder’s back!” rapture. There are more interesting things going on in the show as a result of his departure, such that, while I usually enjoy Duchovny’s performance, he might have been better to leave it that bit longer for the payoff.

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