"This is not happening…this is NOT happening…"
Which is exactly what I was saying during this episode. The latest installment of "The X-Files" in which David Duchovny returns as Fox Mulder left me satisfied for the first time since Season Eight’s premiere. The season's new "less filling, tastes great" approach is passable for now, though time will tell if it can hold its own. To steal a great line from the Beatles’ first cinematic venture "A Hard Day’s Night," "Could this be an early clue to the new direction?" Let us hope.
It’s all in a name—"This is Not Happening" is a lovely homage to what is arguably one of the best "X-Files" episodes of all time, the Third Season’s "Jose Chung’s ‘From Outer Space. ’" Believe it or not, the phrase itself is no alien to Season Eight. Joe Morgan’s character uses the phrase in "Redrum," but nothing compared to the treatment it receives in the episode of the same name. During "TINH" we hear the actual phrase used on two separate yet very important occasions: In the teaser when Richie witnesses the UFO disappear (said twice there), and once more when he finds Mrs. Hoese in the field. In the last scene, an utterly desperate and frustrated Scully falls to her knees, looks to the sky and screams "This is not happening."
Such a tease…--Didn’t you just fall in love with Richie’s exuberance in the teaser? It reminded me of another young enthusiast, Blaine from "Jose Chung’s ‘From Outer Space. ’" Yet another tie-in, but only if you make the stretch.
A nice touch: The handheld recorder Ritchie speaks into is actually on, the little red light is clearly visible. Too bad both the camera and the recorder keep disappearing/reappearing between shots.
I especially enjoyed the non-denominational brand of click-and-toss camera Ritchie uses…the "why pay more" brand saves 1013 a lot of licensing hassles. Although the gold/red/purple color scheme does suggest Kodak, as far as I can tell no TM is used.
Chicks dig the ship: The returning spaceship doesn’t actually jive with the initial ship, the one in "Requiem," but I can forgive that. The second leg of a connector flight is often a bit shabbier than the first.
Arlene Pileggi—I’ve always liked her as Skinner’s assistant. In this episode she has a speaking part, her first in quite awhile.
Sketchy diagnosis: When Dogbird, Skinman, and Scully arrive at the hospital in Montana, Scully asks the doctor about the condition of Mrs. Hoese. His reply? "She’s circling the drain. " Not exactly an informed medical opinion, and certainly not professional, however true it might have been.
Ritchie’s viewing habits: When the big three pay Ritchie a visit, he’s watching a documentary on the World War II fighter pilots and their encounters with foo fighters. This is especially appropriate for Ritchie to be viewing given the story behind the legend. At the time, these encounters with disappearing/reappearing "balls of fire" were believed to be an example of advanced German technology in wartime, but later investigation disproved this theory. Presently, some believers insist what these pilots saw were in fact UFOs. Others believe they are simply imaginings and hallucinations experienced as a result of the obvious stress of war. To this day, the real truth behind the foo fighters of World War II remains unknown.
Another clever tie-in is apparent as well with this reference. Some of you might be aware of the popular rock band The Foo Fighters. The Foo Fighters sing "Walking After You," the unofficial title track of "Fight the Future" (it plays during the closing credits) and can be found on the "Fight the Future" soundtrack. The Foo Fighters also have a song featured on "Songs in the Key of X," called "Down in the Park. " Did I mention they are reported fans of the show? They are, and this discreet mention may very well be a nod in their direction.
Did you ever wonder…Just what the heck those nasty Grays did to Mulder’s chest? Well, this may be a clue. When the big three are looking at Theresa Hoese, her doctor is describing what was done to her. He mentions that her thoracic cavity was cut open and "her organ tissue was scooped away. " Yikes…let’s hope Jeremiah gets off that spaceship rather soon.
Open Door Policy—To be such a paranoid guy, Ritchie doesn’t even have his door locked, plus he looks out of the window (obviously dangerous, especially on the "X-Files) instead of the peep hole. How many people on "The X-Files" have been shot through windows? Let me see--Fowley, CSM, Scully was shot at through a window once…I really can’t get into it right now. Point being, Ritchie, lock your door and stay away from the window! Of course, Doggett couldn’t have barged in like the authoritative federal employee that he is if Richie would’ve locked his door. But, we make allowances. We have to…we’re X-Files fans.
Doggett asks Ritchie if he’s ever heard of an alien in Nikes—does Michael Jordan qualify? Anyone who plays basketball like that can’t terrestrial. Also, those multiple shots of Jeremiah’s beat-up Nikes are a recipe for disaster…now every spoiled brat alien in the neighborhood is gonna want a pair.
The Stupendous Scully—Forget the critics, I’m a believer. This episode further proves my point. The Scully women are notorious for psychic leanings—Ma Scully’s premonitory dream about Duane Barry and Melissa Scully’s off-beat New Age quirky charm are prime examples of this. Perhaps no better example is the behavior Scully herself has exhibited in the past. Remember her dream about Mulder in "The Blessing Way," as well as her visions in "Leonard Betts?" Let’s not forget Scully seeing her father AND Emily on various occasions, not to mention her mind-blowing visions of the holy man in "The Sixth Extinction. In "Sixth Extnction: Amor Fati" she is paid a visit by a visage of Albert Hosteen, who is actually dying in a hospital bed in New Mexico.
The episode "all things" deals specifically with Scully’s sensitivities. Remember the Chakra-tickling vision she experiences in the Buddhist temple, and the blond woman (spirit guide?) who leads Scully throughout the episode? Of course, there are other instances that I fail to mention, but now is not the time to get into it.
In "TINH" we have Scully dreaming of Mulder yet again, reminding us of her previous dreams in "Within/Without." Yes, the images in those episodes are Scully’s dreams, and yes, according to the evidence exhibited by Hoese and Gary (Ritchie’s buddy), her dreams are indeed premonitory. But, we already knew that, right?
If the evidence provided is still not enough (skeptics), Scully also has a vision of Mulder in her hotel room the night he is found. Need I say more? Get the woman a Psychic Hotline.
Nighttime Nit-Pick--It looks like Scully is sporting new jammies, plum-colored silk ones I can’t remember having seen before. I hope they make a reappearance some time very soon.
That was some dream, all right. It was so disturbing, in fact, that she felt the need to wake up Skinner in the middle of the night just to tell him about it. But not before applying fresh makeup and a new change of clothes, of course. While looking just sublime, her full wardrobe and impeccable makeup grossly overshadow AD Skinner, who opted for a more sensible approach to late-night dress-up. He simply donned his clothes from the day before, sans tie. Of course, getting dressed in the middle of the night does have its perks. In the scene where Scully is awakened with a phone call the next morning, she’s in full dress…no primping necessary.
Galaxy Musings—I like this scene. It’s poignant and compelling and sweetly revealing. So what if it doesn’t jive with Scully’s own personal beliefs about the afterlife, she could have been speaking objectively, or simply from Mulder’s POV. The dialogue made for a great scene between Skinner and Scully, and I won’t dissect it any further.
That Monica Reyes Thing—Why exactly did Doggett drag Skinner and Scully out to the middle of nowhere just to meet this woman? What happened to the good old fashioned "office sit-down?" Plus, the Scully!IceQueen act would have been much more affective in the confinement of an office, with a sickly halogen lamp casting funky shadows. Like Doggett remarks later…"It’s early. The coffee’s hot. "
Reyes claims she’s "open" to things. She’s even well versed in abduction phenomenon (how genuinely cool!). If all of this is true, then why on earth does rationalize the abductions as cult-related? Is she a graduate of the Early Years Scully/Skeptics Training Course? I don’t get it. Another thing I don’t get is Reyes’ claim that she "something of a black sheep" in the field office in New Orleans. I find that a little hard to believe. New Orleans is a very eclectic city, very open to "spiritual notions" as Reyes calls them. While it’s probably likely the FBI in general would frown upon her, it’s doubtful the New Orleans group would shun her because of her unorthodox belief systems. Granted the agents there are probably all imports, but you would think they would be a little more tolerant.
And introducing…Morley Lights. To my knowledge, I have NEVER before seen them on "The X-Files. " If I am wrong, please let me know…and site references.
A word from our sponsors—This is for viewers who saw the Circuit City commercial during the episode. It looks as though Circuit City has adopted the slogan "Imagine That. " Anyone else think Phillip Padgett? Or is it just me? Show of hands?
Akward insertion of factoid—Reyes’ mention of Doggett’s son, the same son we get a hint of in "Invocation. " A good way to tie Reyes to Doggett’s past, but it’s painfully out of place here.
"Have you seen this boy?"—The photo Scully shows Absalom in an attempt to ID Mulder is unfortunately the grossly unflattering new FBI Identification mugshot we get a taste of in the opening credits. It’s larger than life here, and no less unsightly.
Campfire Coziness—While the cult devotees are munching beef stew around the bonfire, Jeremiah Smith goes out scouting. Don’t you think he could have healed Mulder before going out on checkpoints? He healed Theresa Hoese as soon as he found out about her. Instead, everyone decides they should break for lunch and wait for him to get back. In the future, I suggest an "on-the-spot" express healing, just to be sure. You never know when you might be abducted.
Speaking of that…The closing scene is spectacular, isn’t it? As Scully runs into the clearing in front of the campsite, the music is very "2001: A Space Odyssey. " The entire scene feels very heroic and purposeful.
One thing to look for: While the spaceship hovers above, take a look at the circular gathering place where the campers were eating earlier. Isn’t it reminiscent of a shorter version of Stonehenge?
Technically Speaking: There are some beautiful moments in this episode, from the obviously spectacular spaceship, to trees stirred by a breeze created by a spaceship that doesn’t exist.
A lot of nice shots have little to do with special effects. The "sneak attack" method seems to weigh heavily throughout as far as camera work. In "TINH" we experience the character’s reaction before we see the action. A few instances: The viewer witnesses Scully’s revulsion as she views Theresa Hoese for the first time, before we actually get to see it from her angle. Scully’s dream is seen before she is seen dreaming it. In the teaser, we witness Ritchie’s horror before the shot of Theresa Hoese. When Scully sees a vision of Mulder in her hotel room, we see her reaction first, a lovely close-up, then the camera cuts to the vision of Mulder. When Skinner and Scully meet Reyes for the first time, the camera approaches from behind, as it does on several instances, such as Mulder in the field, and Reyes finding Gary’s body. Some scenes particularly worthy of mention are the ones involving storming of the compound. With every creepy looking plastic curtain Scully asides, the viewer isn’t aware of what she is seeing until it is something of note—Theresa Hoese. Finally, when Scully runs to Mulder’s side, the jerky camerawork gives a great shot of her point of view before switching angles.
And the Emmy goes too: The acting is superb in this episode, from Skinner’s sensitivity to Absalom’s moody mysticism, everything seems to work. Robert Patrick is compassionate and as stubborn as ever as the disbelieving Doggett, the actor playing Ritchie is appropriately intent on finding his friend. The only thing that doesn’t quite work for me is the new character of Monica Reyes, played by Annabeth Gish. The entire performance seemed a bit forced and out of place. If the onset of this character is an attempt to incorporate a love interest for Dogbird now that main man is back (sort of), it is a rather lame one.
Above all, Gillian Anderson’s performance reigns supreme, and qualifies as one of the best this season. With every little nuance, the viewer understands perfectly what Scully is experiencing. Whether she’s gazing whimsically at the cosmos or recoiling from Theresa Hoese, her emotions are hard-hitting and real. The last few minutes of this episode undoubtedly belong to Anderson, despite the 11th hour return of her costar. With Jeremiah Smith she is passionate, insistent, and desperate. When she finds Mulder, we experience the horror of her fears realized, and her refusal to give up. In the end, she is utterly consumed by helplessness and despair…and we feel it.
Nifty Notables—While not as memorable as some of the catch phrases from "Jose Chung’s ‘From Outer Space,’" we do have some nice moments in "This is Not Happening. " Nifty Notables include Reyes’ "No fricking way" and Richie’s "I come in peace," as well as the aforementioned coffee remark delivered by Doggett. Scully and Reyes had some heated moments, a few a little too scripted, but I’ll let you watch the episode for those. There are so many I’ve forgotten—go retread and enjoy~
"This is Not Happening" marks not only the return of Mulder, but the return of "The X-Files" as we know it.
Welcome back, indeed.