Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The X-Files - S6:E13 "Agua Mala"

[ S6:E12 "One Son" <<< Season 6 >>> S6:E14 "Monday" ]

Apart from learning the Smoking Man's "real" name, it's interesting to note that I remember the events of this episode (and the next two, as a matter of fact) better than the previous two (despite being big ticket mythology episodes). I don't wanna jump to conclusions, but I've certainly come to see the merit in the perspective I've discussed previously by which some fans consider the standalone, monster-of-the-week episodes to be the more enduring takeaways of this series, at least in the later seasons (although I suspect they are referring to such experimental episodes as the likes of The Post-Modern Prometheus, and Triangle, rather than the traditional freak-of-the-weeks, when they say that). I still wouldn't necessarily say that I prefer them to the mythology episodes (even as far as freak-of-the-week episodes are concerned, my favorites are probably in around seasons 2-4). But I can definitely see the merit in considering those episodes - which are alternately fun, funny, imaginative, and scary - more enduring examples of what the series accomplished at a point where the mythology was something considerably less accessible to casual fans (Fight The Future notwithstanding), and not infrequently under-satisfying even to the dedicates.

In any case, for what it's worth, this one starts out looking like a classic, spooky episode of the X-Files. One of the ones that isn't going to win any awards, but that in previous years - when episodes of its kind were more plentiful, and not the rare exception - proved to set the overall tone and atmosphere of the show. (Leave it to newcomer David Amann, who also penned this season's Terms of Endearment, to capture that "classic" X-Files spirit). Things are back to the status quo, it appears (this episode jumps right in to the thick of it with no real preliminary setup), with Mulder and Scully investigating X-Files (and not having to go behind anyone's back to do so). This is another episode about a sea monster, like season 3's Quagmire, but it's a very different sort of monster - more of a cross between 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea and the alien parasite from Ice than the Loch Ness monster.

Arthur Dales - the man who discovered the X-Files, now retired and living in Florida - returns from the episode Travelers, to alert Mulder to an unsolved case right in his backyard. An impending hurricane has apparently washed something deadly ashore - something with creepy-looking, clear tentacles. Though shot mostly in interiors, this episode manages to effectively construct an atmosphere of sheltering from a hurricane. It's almost enough to bring the viewer back to the Vancouver days, with all the rain, and the darkly lit sets. There is, however, also a good deal of humor threaded throughout the story. It's not altogether unwelcome, but - while not being completely self-conscious - it tends more toward "jokey" comedy than the subtle character-driven humor that I prefer from earlier seasons. Most of the characters we meet stranded in the condominium where the majority of the episode takes place are caricatures and one-note stereotypes, clearly designed for fun, and not depth. There are definitely some welcome creepy elements to this story, but, like The Rain King, it ultimately steers too much toward humor in the end to be a truly good, dark episode of The X-Files.

Memorable quotes:

Arthur Dales: Don't sneer at the mysteries of the deep, young lady. The bottom of the ocean is as deep and dark as the imagination.

Mulder: Don't dismiss him so easily - he discovered the X-Files forty years ago. He's seen things that I've only read about.
Scully: Because sea monsters can only be read about, Mulder. Because they don't exist.
Mulder: If the sea is where life began - where our ancestors first walked ashore - then who's to say what new life may be developing in its uncharted depths?

(I know there's stigma surrounding the term "sea monster", but as a scientist, Scully should be aware that some really strange things do live down under the sea. On the other hand, I guess the Shark Week episode "Alien Sharks" is still over a good decade away at the time this episode was filmed).

Mulder: The good thing about zero visibility, Scully - it can't get any worse.

Mulder: You know, Scully, some day we're gonna look back on this and we're gonna laugh. And we'll just think of it as man pitted against the forces of nature. Think of it as a test of our mettle.
Scully: I don't need my mettle tested.

Mulder (picks a watch out of the toilet): I've heard of "passing the time", but...ouch!

Scully: Stand back, or make yourself useful - but stay out of my way.

(Tough, down-to-business Scully is always fun to watch).

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