Friday, November 6, 2015

The X-Files - S6:E9 "S.R. 819"

[ S6:E8 "The Rain King" <<< Season 6 >>> S6:E10 "Tithonus" ]

It is with great relief that in S.R. 819 - that is, Senate Resolution 819 - the series gives us another Skinner-centric episode, the likes of which we haven't seen since season 4's Zero Sum (and season 3's Avatar before it). I actually like Kersh as an antagonist, but as the agents' new Assistant Director, he's been edging Skinner right out of the show lately, and Skinner is one of the pinnacles of this series. Having Skinner back front and center brings us back to the earlier days of the show - indeed, there is a point at which it's almost like this episode (written by John Shiban, who has improved a lot since the days of The Walk and Teso dos Bichos) is ticking off the boxes of a classic X-Files episode - somebody in the hospital in critical condition, Mulder pulling a gun on a suspicious hanger-on, and chasing him down the stairwell, into the parking garage. It's too bad X isn't still around, or we could have had a repeat of One Breath! We also get to see Senator Matheson again, and he has the chance to play more than just an advisory role for once.

And this is a gritty episode. Conspiratorial machinations are at a level that's hard to follow. People who have been allies in the past are put into positions of moral compromise. And best of all, while it doesn't feel like a full-on mythology episode, the events of the episode are tied in to the mythology in a way that makes them feel significant beyond what any standalone episode could boast. It starts with a heartbreaking opener, which, if I didn't know better, would make me think the show was getting ready to kill Skinner off (to be honest, I do know better - at least, I think I do - and I'm still kind of worried for him...). After seeing him in the boxing ring (which explains why he's such a badass), we find that he's been subjected to a rather gruesome disease, with only 24 hours to live. Skinner is characteristically reluctant to let Mulder and Scully help him - he's very self-dependant - but thankfully he's not as reluctant as he was in Avatar, when he was basically a brick wall, and the agents had to go behind his back just to keep him out of jail.

I'm really tempted to discuss some of the exciting twists in this episode, for the sake of keeping the mythology straight, but...I'd just as soon avoid the possibility of spoiling the opportunity for you to experience it yourself. Also, if I must be honest, I'm not sure I followed everything the first time through.

Memorable quotes:

Skinner: Every minute of every day, we choose. Who we are. Who we forgive. Who we defend, and protect. To choose a side, or to walk the line. To play the middle. To straddle the fence between what is and what should be. This was the course I chose. Trying to find the delicate balance of interests that can never exist. Choosing, but not choosing. Defending a center which...cannot hold. So, death chose for me.

Scully: Sir, if this man poisoned you, you should be off your feet and under doctor's care.
Skinner: If this man poisoned me, I'm gonna put a gun to his head, find out why, and ask him how he's gonna make me well.

(This is why Skinner is awesome).

Skinner: If I die now, I die in vain.

(Skinner's speech here about regretting not picking sides is touching, but he must have forgotten how he totally stood up to the Smoking Man at the end of Paper Clip, or the fact that the reason he made that deal with the devil in Memento Mori, and let himself be dragged through the mud in Zero Sum, was all for the sake of Scully's health. It's noble, but he's not giving himself enough credit).

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