Thursday, September 3, 2015

The X-Files - S3:E13 "Syzygy"

[ S3:E12 "War of the Coprophages" <<< Season 3 >>> S3:E14 "Grotesque" ]

Spoiler Warning: This review contains what may be considered spoilers for this episode. I consider this episode to be playing a bit of a cruel joke on the audience, and may be approached more favorably when you realize this, but I'll leave it up to you to decide whether you'd care to avoid being spoiled or not.

Like The Erlenmeyer Flask before it, this is an episode that taught me another scientific term - and I've loved the word 'syzygy' (and the concept behind it) ever since. But the thing I had remembered about it most was that it contains one of my favorite of Mulder's voice-overs near the end (some people might call it hokey, but I really go for that philosophical stuff). When some high school boys start turning up dead in a superstitious New Hampshire town, the locals suspect a Satanic cult is responsible. But what's really going on is an astronomical alignment of planets, causing people to behave strangely, and, in particular, giving two teenage girls both born on an auspicious date deadly, supernatural powers.

Realizing in hindsight by the end of the episode the reason everybody - Mulder and Scully included - is acting strangely is a bit of a relief, but even so, this failed experiment comes off feeling like a hot mess. Written by Chris Carter, you get the distinct impression that he may be (unsuccessfully) trying to ape Darin Morgan's formula. In just the last episode, we had another mass hysteria, which Scully was also very dismissive of, but her behavior here is less defensible. Mulder isn't much better, as the both of them act like immature adolescents. They fight, and it's less of a "we're in disagreement" thing as it is an "I'm angry at you" kind of thing - especially when Scully becomes bitter and jealous over Mulder [once again] giving another woman some attention.

You get the impression that some of this is supposed to be funny, but unlike Darin Morgan's ability to play the characters off of each other in clever ways, in this episode it feels unnatural. Which is probably deliberate, but it's also less satisfying. I mean, Mulder drinking vodka? Scully smoking a cigarette? The two of them bickering like a couple going through a divorce? It's frustrating to watch (and I'm not even a shipper). Even the climax of the episode, which culminates in something of a Carrie vs. Carrie showdown, is marred by the decision to have circus music playing on the TV in the background. I really wanted to like this episode about Satanic cults, astronomical phenomena, and two mischievous teenage girls, but it really isn't that enjoyable to watch. I'd rather put last season's Die Hand die Verletzt on play again instead.

Memorable quotes:

Terri: I mean, your mom is always saying, "wait until you're married - don't just give it away."
Margi: Yeah, and then some cult member wants to kidnap you and sacrifice you because you are a virgin. Gawd!

Mulder: If you detect a hint of skepticism or incredulity in Agent Scully's voice, it's because of the overwhelming evidence gathered by the FBI debunking virtually all claims of ritual abuse by Satanic cults.
Scully: Our research has proven that most of these accounts are false or imagined - that the trauma or mental illness that is often linked to Satanic cults is a result of denial, hysteria, and misplaced blame.

Detective White: So, what are you doing at my house?
Mulder: I was hoping you could help me solve the mystery of the horny beast.

Terri & Margi: Hate him, wouldn't wanna date him.

Mulder: Go ahead.
Scully: No, you go ahead.
Mulder: No, no, no, be my guest. I know how much you like snapping on the latex.

Mulder: We are but visitors on this rock, hurtling through time and space at 66,000 miles an hour, tethered to a burning sphere by an invisible force in an unfathomable universe. This most of us take for granted, while refusing to believe these forces have any more effect on us than a butterfly beating its wings halfway around the world. Or that two girls born on the same date, at the same time, in the same place, might not find themselves the unfortunate focus of similar unseen forces, converging like the planets themselves into burning pinpoints of cosmic energy, whose absolute gravity would threaten to swallow and consume everything in its path. Or maybe the answer lies even further from our grasp.

Mulder: You just ran a stop sign back there.
Scully: Shut up, Mulder.

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