Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The X-Files - S6:E14 "Monday"

[ S6:E13 "Agua Mala" <<< Season 6 >>> S6:E15 "Arcadia" ]

Monday starts with a very ambitious - and uniquely effective - opener. In past episodes (as I noted during The Pine Bluff Variant, in particular), the inherent tension in putting Mulder and Scully's lives on the line has been mitigated somewhat considerably by the viewer's knowledge of the fact that the creators are almost certainly not going to kill these characters off. But instead of milking that fragile tension for dramatic potential, this episode delivers a shock by doing what the viewer would never expect the show to do - blow Mulder and Scully up in a blaze of glory, a fiery demise that is the very antithesis of subtlety! Obviously, the viewer knows the characters aren't really going to be dead, but the fun is in wondering how the writers are going to resurrect them. And the solution is ultimately satisfying because, instead of being a cheap device designed to toy with the viewer's emotions, or conveniently move the plot forward, it is in fact the central theme around which the episode pivots, that's more fun than frustrating.

The episode opens in the midst of the action, with Mulder and Scully caught up in the middle of a bank robbery, that ends in a deadly explosion. After the title sequence, we see what might appear to be the events leading up to what was ostensibly an in media res beginning, until it eventually becomes clear that the day is repeating itself (à la Groundhog Day). The episode is filmed cleverly, creating an atmosphere of déjà vu, while not feeling overly repetitive. From a meta perspective, one could view the repeated scenes as alternate takes, as if peeling back the veil of the fourth wall, even as they work in the context of the narrative (presuming that some subconscious recognition of the day's repetition is producing a kind of cosmic ennui). It's also a great exploration of the concepts of free will and determinism, as we get to see how a lot of little changes keep amounting to the same general outcome.

Early on, there's actually quite a bit of clumsiness factored in to the proceedings, as if to suggest that fate adds up to a stupid sequence of coincidences, or merely to demonstrate that something is fundamentally off about this day. Despite broaching the subject of determinism, it doesn't feel like a rehash of Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose. Written by the combination of Vince Gilligan and John Shiban, it works because it's not primarily a comedy episode - it's more tense and thrilling than it is funny. And like the best of Darin Morgan's scripts, the writing embraces intriguing concepts of philosophy and human pathos, instead of just copying the surface level of comedy. I'd go so far as to say that, even more so than Bad Blood, this is the one post-Darin Morgan episode that most closely replicates the successful aspects of his style, and best does honor to his short-lived but long-celebrated legacy on the show.

Memorable quotes:

Scully: It doesn't have to end like this.

Mulder: You ever have one of those days, Scully?
Scully: Since I've been working here? Yeah.

Mulder: Free will - with every choice, you change your fate.

Scully: Mulder, it's more likely that we're talking about simple neurochemistry - a glitch in the brain's ability to process recognition and memory. It doesn't mean that the memory's authentic.

(The Matrix aside, I've held this scientific perspective on déjà vu for a long time. It's possible that this is where I first heard it).

Mulder: Have we met?
Pam: More times than I can count.

Pam: Don't you see? We're all in Hell. I'm the only one who knows it. Something went very wrong on this day the first time around. Something got screwed up. Things didn't end the way they were supposed to. Now it's like a needle stuck in a groove.

Mulder: He's got a bomb, he's got a bomb, he's got a bomb, he's got a bomb...

Pam: Nothing ever changes.
Bernard: Things are gonna change. You wait and see.

Pam: This never happened before.

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