Sunday, August 14, 2011

Review - The X-Files Season 4 Episode 13 Never Again / Memento Mori

"Never Again"

The course of The X-Files through the first four seasons is fairly consistent. There are the MOTW episodes, the mythology episodes, which all have a familiar feeling. Mulder and Scully--together--discover the supernatural on their quest to find the truth. There is the occasional episode from Darin Morgan, criticizing certain parts of the show, but always in a fun way. Even an episode like "Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man" doesn't seem too out there, considering is it Frohike narrating a story. "Home," while utterly shocking and the most controversial episode, is nothing more than a MOTW with more grotesqueness than usual.

But then "Never Again" pops up. Although it has the trappings of a standard MOTW episode, the episode, written by Glen Morgan and James Wong before leaving to helm Millenniun, has complex and off-beat themes never tackled before. It's different, very different, and always leaves me uneasy at the end. It challenges the fundamental core of the show and the salient points made by Morgan and Wong in the episode are almost unassailable, even after all nine seasons have aired.

I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around all the points I want to make, so I'll make this easier for myself and readers by putting them in list format.

1. Mulder and Scully--especially Scully--have had a distinct asexuality so that the sexual theme of the episode was extra-shocking.

Mulder has had hookups here and there, but Scully hasn't been getting any, at least not what we've seen. Scully going out, finding Ed Jerse, getting a tattoo, and potentially sleeping with Jerse (as good as the episode is, Chris Carter really undercut it by taking out sex scene, not to mention that both Scully and Jerse are clothed the morning after) is all very foreign. This is not a side of Scully we've seen before and I can understand why people would be miffed by this episode.

2. While Mulder may be a dick at times, Morgan and Wong magnification of his faults goes a tad too far.

Take the final lines of the episode. Scully says, "Not everything is about you, Mulder. This is my life," to which Mulder replies, "Yes, but it's--" and Scully gives him the look. From what I can hear, it sounds like the next word started with an 'm,' which would open up the line, "Yes, but it's mine too," as if Mulder thinks Scully's life is his. Would he really say something like that? Really? The ending silence is a fine way to end the episode, but Mulder's dickish behavior throughout the episode didn't seem very natural.

3. That being said, Morgan and Wong certainly have something worth talking about: Mulder and Scully may not be the wonderful duo people want them to be.

It's disturbing to see what's going on in his episode. Mulder is once again droning on about the alien conspiracy, with some random yahoo no less, while Scully obviously doesn't care. Yet, Mulder continues to push her, calling her a every moment, to make sure she's doing her job properly. When Scully returns to the office, Mulder doesn't seem to care about her. All this stuff is vaguely familiar, as Mulder often abandons her at key moments to do his own thing. We can easily see why Scully would be angry enough to lash out and go do her own thing. Alas, this episode was more of a one-shot, and the team is back to being the same in the next episodes.

4. The episode was aired out of order so "Leonard Betts" would be after the Super Bowl, and Scully's motivation for her actions may have been obscured.

This is very problematic for those who don't do extra research on episodes. At face value, after watching "Never Again" after "Leonard Betts," one would think it is an external cause--cancer--for Scully's behavior, versus the internal cause--something rebellious lurking under a pristine surface.

5. Props to Jodie Foster and Rob Bowman.

In light of the plot of the episode, Foster's voiceover of Betty and Bowman's direction sometimes gets overlooked, but I have a feeling that they would be the talk of the episode had Scully not been the center of the episode.

Score: 9.2/10

"Memento Mori"

Compared to the episode before it, "Memento Mori" is an episode everyone can get behind. It basically has everything you could ask for--small answers to mythology questions, lots of emotional content, action thrills, awesome acting by Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny, the Lone Gunmen, Mark Snow at his best--packed into a neat episode. The one thing people don't seem to like are the voiceovers throughout the episode, though I like how they set the tone for the episode. (Yes, I know the voiceover dialogue is far too poetic for the characters to be saying, but Chris Carter needs an outlet for his poetry!)

One of the major problems of the latest mythology episodes is the inability to answer questions while bringing up 50 more. "Memento Mori" reverses this trend by answering some questions, namely over the clones. They are alien-human hybrids and are trying to stop the project that led to their birth by saving their birth mothers. Mulder learns that all the women who were abducted, included Scully, are infertile because their ova were taken out. While these answers barely scratch the surface, we have a better idea of what's going on without too many more questions.

Scully's struggle with cancer makes up the bulk of the episode, which Gillian Anderson deservedly won her Emmy for. She comes to grips with her condition, acknowledging that she will likely die soon, but gets treatment along with Penny Northern. It's all moving stuff, and the conclusion even more so. After treatment by a doctor who was likely a villain, after Penny Northern dies, Scully returns to her work, the thing that has carried her all these years. It coincides with Mulder's journey, infiltrating the government facility with the Lone Gunmen to find the answers.

This intersection by the end of the episode--Scully deciding to go back to work and Mulder returning to the hospital with more answers than before--puts all the doubts of "Never Again" behind. They mean a lot to each other and will always work to find the truth and whatever is out there. While the turmoil of the episode reaches deep into both of them, there is always another to lean on. The cancer is still there, but the partnership is as solid as ever and that's what matters.

Score: 9.8/10
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