Thursday, December 10, 2015

The X-Files - S8:E3 "Patience"

[ S8:E2 "Without" <<< Season 8 >>> S8:E4 "Roadrunners" ]

I'm a sucker for a good, classic monster-of-the-week episode, and Patience opens with an elderly couple getting mauled by some kind of a man-bat creature. The third episode in a row now written by Chris Carter, this one is also directed by Chris Carter, and I have to say I'm relieved at how straightforward it is. None of that light-hearted humor and experimentation that spoiled The Post-Modern Prometheus and Triangle, and you can say all you want about the Robert Patrick years of the X-Files, but this episode isn't as bad as Fight Club was. And, depending on your perspective, the monster might be more cheesy than scary (although I think he's kinda creepy, myself), but he's a universe better than two Kathy Griffins. I guess this whole Agent Doggett business has given Chris Carter some new energy to pour into the series, after all.

Comparisons to Squeeze are appropriate, for a couple of reasons. I know there are probably fans out there who would want to lynch me just for saying that, but hear me out. I'm not saying this episode is as good (necessarily), or even that the monster is a fraction as memorable as Eugene Victor Tooms was, but both of these episodes feature a mutant freak who has laid dormant for decades between killing sprees. The similarity isn't just that superficial, though - these are both formative freak-of-the-week episodes. In the first case, Squeeze was establishing the formula for the series' first season. Here, it's reinventing that formula with Agent Doggett in Mulder's place. (For better or worse).

And while we got some small scenes with Mulder in the past couple of mythology episodes (easing us in to the new arrangement, no doubt), this is the first Robert Patrick episode with no Mulder at all - his name doesn't even appear in the title credits this time. It's replaced by some more new scenes, which just makes me miss the old, classic title sequence all the more, even if half of it is still the same as the old one. But even though Agent Doggett is the "replacement" for Mulder, it's really more like, in his absence, everybody's taking one step to the left. Scully's the wisened sage of the X-Files, so it falls upon her to step into Mulder's shoes (see as she runs the slideshow briefing, for once) and be the paranormal expert, albeit reluctantly. And Doggett is the newcomer who takes over the rule of skeptic (albeit with less of a scientific background).

You know, I find it interesting - very interesting - that Scully is now using her science to reinforce her investigation of the paranormal, where in the past she used it as a tool to discredit Mulder's crazy theories. Of course, she's been forced into a position where she feels it necessary to defend the work - her very livelihood - in Mulder's absence. But it makes you wonder why she spent all this time resisting Mulder, when she could have been using her science to support - rather than antagonize - him. On another note, it's been a long time since Scully's been subjected to blatant sexism on the job (season 3's 2Shy, perhaps?). In this case, the local police detective assumes Doggett is the expert just because he's a man. It's also enlightening to see how much Scully is dismissed saying some of the same kinds of things (about taking leaps and such) that would have sounded like a pro's expertise coming out of Mulder's mouth.

At any rate, this is a competent start to the freak-of-the-week side of the new show starring Robert Patrick instead of David Duchovny. People talk about how terrible it was that Mulder - the core of the show - had to be replaced, and they're right. I stopped watching, but not because the show was bad - I just wasn't invested in a Mulder-less X-Files (plus, there were probably other things going on in my life at that time that drew me away from the show - I was smack dab in the middle of high school). The thing is, I don't think it's that anybody ever (really) complained that Robert Patrick was a bad actor, or even that Agent Doggett was a bad character, necessarily (because I don't think either of those things is true). It's just that, it doesn't matter how good they are, the X-Files is a different show without Mulder, and - with all due credit to Gillian Anderson in the role of Agent Dana Scully - the character of Fox Mulder (and the way that David Duchovny played him) is what made The X-Files such an intriguing show.

But, that having been said, if the Robert Patrick era can never live up to the previous years, it's at least true that the creators appear to be making the best of a bad situation. It's not like they decided, "let's fuck with the fans and replace Mulder with some other character! Nya-ah-ah!" No, David Duchovny left of his own volition, and they're just doing what they can to make the most of what's left over. But, then again, we're only three episodes in so far.

Memorable quotes:

Doggett: I have to admit, Agent Scully, I'm at a loss.
Scully: Well, that's a good place to start.

Scully: I'd say that assumption is the problem here. A strange print is found, and immediately the most important piece of evidence is thrown out to try and force an explanation.

(I've felt this way all along. Granted, most of the characters on this show think they're living in our world - not the world of the X-Files - where this kind of weird stuff doesn't happen. But it's remarkable how often these professionals allow their biases to create shortcuts, in effect cutting off whole avenues of investigation, when what it takes to solve the case is an open mind. That's the approach Mulder has always used, and it's why he was so good at solving cases no one else could crack. I guess I'm glad that's one thing Scully's learned, even if it took Mulder's disappearance for her to put it into practice).

Doggett: You familiar with the principle of Occam's Razor?
Scully: Yeah, you take every possible explanation and you choose the simplest one. Agent Mulder used to refer to it as Occam's principle of limited imagination.

(That's funny. It's weird that between Mulder and Scully, I relate to Mulder more, given that I am a scientist through and through. Although I might argue that Mulder is the real rationalist of the pair, and that Scully at times represents the worst example of applying skepticism beyond reason, just for its own sake. Anyway, I practically worship Occam's Razor. Hell, I've probably been responsible for introducing the concept to just about every friend I've had, ever since the day I learned about it. But not in the world of The X-Files, because the world of The X-Files is not like our world. Anyway, Occam's Razor still applies, it's just that there's so many more possibilities, and you have to look a little harder to find the evidence that rules the simpler ones out. I also find Mulder's criticism of Occam's Razor ironic - as appropriate to his character that it is - because it's the best argument against God, and it would seem that Mulder, an atheist, has already applied it thusly).

Detective: Honest to God, you just jump at whatever explanation is the wildest and the most far-fetched, don't you?

(Okay, I get that this is an important theme and all - Scully is taking Mulder's place - but this is a little too on-the-nose. And unwarranted - because Scully's been very delicately tiptoeing around the evidence, making only the wild connections that deserve to be made, and showing a level of restraint that Mulder rarely practiced, or at least he rarely let others see the individual steps that led to his crazy conclusions).

Ernie Stefaniuk: I know on the evolutionary ladder, bats are real close by the apes. And just as we came from the apes, so might a man, sprung from a bat. To live, and hunt like a bat, but with the cold-blooded vengeance of a man.

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