Monday, November 30, 2015

The X-Files - S7:E13 "First Person Shooter"

[ S7:E12 "X-COPS" <<< Season 7 >>> S7:E14 "Theef" ]

If X-COPS was this series' Freddy vs. Jason, then First Person Shooter is its Jason X. One can't help thinking that if the series hadn't jumped the shark by this point, then this wouldn't be a bad place to consider the shark jumped. Taken alone, X-COPS felt like a great idea executed in a mediocre fashion, but alongside First Person Shooter, it just seems like another gimmick (although a mildly more promising one). Given how much of the rest of this season has been channeling Millennium, with the virtual reality premise, one wonders if this episode isn't a riff on Chris Carter's prematurely cancelled Harsh Realm series. I can't say for sure, as I haven't seen the series, but Chris Carter does direct this episode. At any rate, it's written by William Gibson & Tom Maddox, and it contains many of the same themes as their better, previous entry - season 5's Kill Switch. Namely, a high-tech gamer atmosphere, virtual reality, a loving treatment of the Lone Gunmen, and a kickass cybergoth female character (I liked the last one's attitude, but this one's wardrobe is incredible). Like Jason X, this episode isn't as bad as I was expecting from its reputation, but it's not exactly good, either.

The concept is salvageable - a game predicated on a virtual reality platform in which an unexpected foreign element begins killing players in real life (a sort of technological take on the manner of death we saw in Sleepless). But it develops into a cheap fx-laden cheesefest by its end, representing another failure of potential. (As an amateur game developer myself, I'm wondering why anyone would be prepared to release a game in which no one has ever beaten the second level...). But just as frustrating is the rampant sexism prevalent in the script. In truth, the "adolescent male fantasy" bit is taken a little too far - but it's just harmless fun. Worse is Scully's bitter attitude. Feminist critiques aside, Scully is a scientist - at the very least she should understand (academically, if not experientially) the effects of testosterone and the male sex drive. And I would expect more from her than to give in to social propaganda about the effects of violence in the media. But in this episode she comes off as a joyless spinster. (The look on her face in that one moment where she realizes her sexist assumptions about a man being responsible are wrong is priceless, but not enough to save her). The episode starts to drag by the end - almost like it's stalling for time - and I don't buy that these game developers are the type who would be willing to kill for the sake of their success. It takes a certain kind of monster to do that, and these people aren't it.

Memorable quotes:

Langly: Welcome to the land where silicon meets silicone.

Scully: This man's been shot.
Ivan: No! See, when somebody is shot, there's a gun involved. That is absolutely impossible, because there's no way anybody could ever get a gun past security.
Scully: What do you call this?
Ivan: A laser blaster. For wasting cyber trash.

Detective Lacoeur: Have you got something?
Mulder: Yeah. Our killer, I believe.
Detective Lacoeur: Hey, I'll put out an APB...for Frederick's of Hollywood.

Mulder: You have to admit, though, Scully, this is a pretty amazing piece of technology.
Scully: Yeah, wasted on a stupid game.
Mulder: Stupid?
Scully: Dressing up like high-tech warriors to play a futuristic version of cowboys and indians. What kind of moron gets his ya-yas out like that?
Mulder: (gleefully points to himself)
Scully: Mulder, what purpose does this game serve, except to add to a culture of violence in a country that's already out of control?
Mulder: Who says it adds to it?
Scully: You think that taking up weapons and creating gratuitous virtual mayhem has any redeeming value whatsoever? I mean, that the testosterone frenzy that it creates stops when the game does?
Mulder: Well, that's rather sexist, isn't it? I mean, maybe the game provides an outlet for certain impulses. That it fills a void in our genetic makeup that the more civilizing effects of society fail to provide for.
Scully: Well, that must be why men feel the great need to blast the crap out of stuff.

(Wow, I can't imagine how the writers could possibly have made Scully any less likable in this episode...)

Scully: They...paid you to scan your body?
Jade Blue Afterglow: You think that's the strangest thing I've been paid to do?

(Her pimp-slapping exploits in Tithonus aside, in this episode Scully is either derisive, or otherwise jealous, of a sex worker - and she doesn't come off well either way).

Mulder: I don't know about you, Scully, but I am feeling the great need to blast the crap out of something.

(Me too, Mulder. Me too).

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