Saturday, January 9, 2016

The X-Files - S9:E13 "Improbable"

[ S9:E12 "Underneath" <<< Season 9 >>> S9:E14 "Scary Monsters" ]

I said in my review of the last episode that this season would do well to stick to a serious tone, like it mostly did in season 8. Alas, with this episode, Chris Carter (who writes and directs) is back to his old tricks (the non-mythology ones, that is), trying to do a light episode, infused with questionable humor. Imagine that the writer of such cringe-worthy episodes as Syzygy and Fight Club were to try to construct a copycat of Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose. This is not just Chris Carter trying to fill the void left by Darin Morgan's humor, but actually applying his own extremely dubious sense of humor (also witnessed in The Post-Modern Prometheus) to the formula of what was undoubtedly a winning episode. I'm surprised that they're still chasing past glories this late in the series. And if this and prior episodes are any indication, then I don't think I like Chris Carter's sense of style or humor or music (Nick Cave and the Bad Seed's Red Right Hand notwithstanding). The closest thing to real humor in this episode (the serious, cynical, situational sort of humor this series used to rely on) is a professional numerologist not believing in numerology. And as a director, this episode's technical flourish is the use of split screens, except there's no real point (not like in David Duchovny's Hollywood A.D., where it was used effectively in one scene to serve a joke).

Opening in a Vegas-style casino (that recalls another goofy episode, Three of a Kind), this episode guest stars Burt Reynolds as a card-counting magician (to get a sense of the mood, in one scene, he wiggles his butt in front of the camera while dancing the cha-cha). I've been using the phrase "leave it to Reyes" a lot, but once again, she's relying on a dubious new-agey theory - in this case, numerology - to tie together a series of murders committed by a killer who seems to be driven by the mystical power of numbers (considering the themes of Syzygy and Fight Club, perhaps I should be saying "leave it to Chris Carter" instead). The subject matter allows the characters (especially Scully, who is a scientist) to bring up some interesting scientific concepts (e.g., the Unified Field Theory), but they are stretched to the breaking point - it's like the difference between astronomy and astrology. The idea of counting cards, for example, is seductive, but statistics relies on probabilities. It doesn't allow, in this case, for the accurate prediction of complex actualities - as demonstrated in a ridiculous scene (I actually wrote the word "ridiculous" twice in my notes describing it) which posits an underlying pattern to all of existence, a la The Goldberg Variation. This episode has enough problems in its conception, but what kills it is its goofy tone.

Postscript: I swear, I didn't pick up on this at all, but apparently Burt Reynolds' character in this episode is supposed to be God. And I think that just makes me hate this episode even more. Lame-o.

Memorable quotes:

Burt: You know your problem, my friend? It's not the cards - it's playing the hand you were dealt. Plenty of guys get a bad deal; it's all in what you do with it.

Reyes: Do you believe the universe is knowable as a mathematical calculation of the whole, reducible to a single equation?
Scully: No.
Reyes: Why not?
Scully: Because I don't think that its complexity allows for it to be reduced so simply.

Burt: You know, there's a secret to this game, Wayne-o. And I'm gonna tell you what the secret is: choose better.

Doggett: Don't we at least have to accept that as a possibility?
Special Agent: No, we don't.
Reyes: Why?
Special Agent: Because it's highly improbable.
Doggett: But not impossible.

(Just a cheaper version of Mulder's great line from The Jersey Devil - "highly unlikely, but not outside the realm of extreme possibility?").

Wayne: Go to hell.
Burt: Are the reservations in your name?

Scully: Sir, does it look like we're here to play checkers?
Burt: ...No.

(And neither am I, Chris. Neither am I).

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