Sunday, July 31, 2011

Review - The X-Files Season 4 Episode 7 Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man / 8 Tunguska

"Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man"

If "Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man" were to be taken at face value--as a completely authentic, factual account of CSM's life--it would be a very troubling episode, throwing a bunch of inconceivable parts into the mythology. Somehow, CSM would have personally shot and killed both JFK and MLK, rigged the 1980 "Miracle on Ice," and is the reason why the Bills never win the Superbowl. Thankfully, the story is narrated by Frohike, who, as we know, is part of the Lone Gunmen and a notorious conspiracy theorist. He notes that he got all the information from a magazine he subscribes to, and will confirm the information from his hacker sources. We can all breathe easily that the episodes depicted in the episode probably aren't accurate in the least bit.

But even if this isn't really what CSM's life was like, the episode still delves into the mentality of the men in the shadows, who seemingly have control of everything, with a spark of reality. The emotional core of the episode, the despair of CSM as his stories continue to be rejected, remains true even if the facts are exactly true. At the end of the day we can say that, yeah, he probably didn't do any of those things or was only a small part of them, but his life isn't a picnic. He's human, just like us.

We see him sent out to carry out orders from the higher ups, often with a degree of discomfort. He respects MLK, but for the country he must do it. There is a sense of duty in every action, and what we perceived to be malicious evil in the first three seasons is only devotion to duty. Reflected in the alien conspiracy, the members of the Syndicate probably aren't always happy about the things they do, but realize that they have to get dirty in order to keep order. This lingers heavily on the conscience, as there are plenty of times when CSM looks conflicted.

Throughout the episode, CSM tries to get stories published and fails--for although his official job has lots of clout, it is shrouded in secrecy, unknown and unhailed. After years of work, he has no public recognition, nothing to leave behind as proof of his efforts and struggles. CSM is a nobody, a random government employee with a suit, as regular as everyone else. But he knows he is more, except no one else does.

Score: 9.2/10


There is an epicness to "Tunguska," I think, unmatched by any previous episodes. What began as a simple conspiracy, confined to the United States, becomes global, as Mulder and Krycek travel to Russia, finding themselves in the midst of a gulag where prisoners are experimented on with black oil, and the episode ends with Mulder infected with black oil as well. This is heavy stuff, bolstered by the appearance of Scully at a Senate hearing at the beginning of the episode, refusing to reveal Mulder's whereabouts.

But the episode also leaves you wondering, "Well, what now?" The previous batch of mythology episodes introduced the clones, and then promptly disappeared them. Now we're back to black oil which apparently came from inside meteors from space and landed in Russia in 1908 and aren't giving anyone radiation burns. Was the black oil in the previous season different from this strand? CSM and Well-Manicured Man are scheming, but they aren't being forthright as always.

Once again, Chris Carter writes a good episode, with some very cool actions scenes and plenty of foreboding tension. However, no loose ends from previous episodes are being tied up. If anything, Carter drags things out further and further. There is a finite length to long how one can keep this up, and Carter surely does not realize this. Indeed, he plows ahead, adding layers and layers to the mystery without going back to answer previous questions.

Score: 8.8/10
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