The X-Files – My Struggle

Spoilers will be in this post so if you didn’t watch The X-Files last night, don’t read.

We’ve been lied to. What we believe about aliens and what we think we know about aliens has all been a lie. It’s all  been a big cover-up in order to create a new world order. Nothing is known anymore.

That’s what viewers found out about half way through last night’s return of a six run episode of The X-Files. Thirteen years after the series went off the air, fans were treated to seeing old favorites back on the little screen again. No it wasn’t perfect, but it was so good to hear those opening notes of the theme song and to see Mulder and Scully again was everything I hoped it would be.

Mulder, living out in the middle of nowhere, is contacted by Scully in order for the two of them to meet with Tad O’Malley (Joel McHale), a radical right-wing, tv host who is also a racing conspiracy theorist. O’Malley brings Mulder and Scully to meet a girl who claims to have been repeatedly abducted by aliens who also impregnated her and stole her babies several times over. The meeting appears suspect and the girl seemingly coached by O’Malley. Mulder later goes back to her house and to see if he can get the truth out of her. It’s from this meeting that Mulder’s new world order theory comes about.  He believes all the work he and Scully did in the past and the things they found out were lies. The little green men were just humans dressed up as aliens. Everything has been a cover-up in order for a select few to take over the world.

Mulder believing so quickly in this new world order theory may seem a bit far fetched and convenient plot wise, but Mulder has always had a desperate need to believe. He wants to believe and he’ll do anything to find out the truth.  Is it so hard to believe he’d be convinced of a new idea? What do we know about Mulder from the time we last saw him to now? Nothing really. The world has greatly changed over the past 13 years – cell phones were barely a thing when the show first started airing. Mulder’s search for the truth hasn’t offered him much in terms of answers, so him clinging to a new idea isn’t that hard for me to believe.

What’s harder for me to get on board with is Sully’s implied relationship with O’Malley.  While I like Joel McHale, I don’t think his character quite fits into The X-Files. He’s too brash, too in your face, too much too much.  Why Scully would be involved with this dude is beyond me. He seems more like a way for the writers to say “hey, we know that these crazy, brash, t.v. hosts get a lot of viewers now-a-days, let’s make one who is like that but has a little bit of nuttiness to him.” I’ll be interested to see how his role plays out and how he influences the outcome or ideas of Mulder or Scully.

Overall I was thrilled to see The X-Files back on.  Mulder and Scully are played perfectly and it’s what I’d expect to see after a 13 years hiatus. I was never a Mulder and Scully shipper and I always liked how the show portrayed their romantic relationship as being right on the fringe of everything.  We didn’t really see them together as a couple and the show was so much better for it (see The Vampire Diaries for an example of how main characters getting together and becoming plot can ruin a show). There’s still that biting dynamic between the two. I loved an opening scene when O’Malley pulled up and Scully turned towards him, and the shot showed Mulder looking at Scully for a beat or two without her knowing. It was an excellent way to show their relationship without showing it.

We only get six episodes but that’s Okay. I believe a slightly bumpy start will even itself out and once we find out more about what is really going on, we won’t be bothered by O’Malley’s brashness or Mulder’s new theory.

How about you? Did you enjoy the episode as much as I did? What did you like or not like? I’d love to hear what others have to say!

 

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The X-Files – Trailers

Last night Fox aired two new trailers for the upcoming mini X-Files season, links here and here.

While I didn’t watch them when they aired, I did view
them afterwards and loved it. What do these brief trailers tell us?  Well, not much really. Other than Scully is surprised to get a call from Mulder, Skinner’s got a beard, and we get a glimpse of the nefarious cigarette smoking man (actually, just his cigarette). Who could ask for more!?

Fox is doing a great job at hyping the return of The X-Files – from their 201 Days of X-Files campaign to reaching to fans on Twitter – and I for one am buying into it.  Sad you say? I don’t care.  The return of The X-Files is a wonderful thing for this t.v. junkie and even if the mini-season doesn’t live up to the hype, I’m Okay with it.

The X-Files premieres Sunday, January 24th, after the NFC Championship game on FOX.

Shows worth watching: Being Human UK version

Tell me if you’ve hard this before: a werewolf, a ghost, and a vampire all live together and try to pass themselves off as humans.  In the saturated world of werewolves/vampires, etc., this could be a boring concept.  However, Being Human is so much more than a show about supernatural beings. Annie the ghost, played by Lenora Crichlow, is sad and lonely and wants desperately for other to see her.  Her flatmates can see her but that’s not enough for this ghost in limbo. George the werewolf, played by Russell Tovey, is so far removed from his werewolf side and deeply struggles with his full moon transformations.  Mitchell the vampire, played by Aidan Turner, has the confidence and sex appeal to be the vampire but he’s sworn off human blood and struggles to not give into his blood thirst. None of them want this life.  They all are lonely, sad, and yearn for a normal life. Their shared loneliness and sadness bring them together and they form a deep bond that helps them through the most difficult and dark times.

The focus of Being Human is on the emotion of the three main characters.  It’s about their relationship and their shared experiences about being outsiders who want nothing more than to be seen as normal humans.  It’s about how finding the right people at the right time can help a person overcome feelings of vast loneliness and despair and make someone feel normal the way they are. Yes the supernatural aspect plays a big part of the show but it’s not the only aspect of the show.

What I like about Being Human is how well these three, original actors and characters fit together.  The chemistry of all three actors is evident from the start and helps to make the character’s situation believable. Russell Tovey is perfectly cast as the werewolf.  He plays Georges’s mild-mannered disposition with incredible nuance, making his werewolf self such a vast contrast in personality that it’s shocking George could even be a werewolf. Lenora Crichlow plays Annie as a somewhat naive young woman who eventually finds her strength via her relationship with George and Mitchell.  And Aidan Turner plays the smoldering Mitchell with utter conviction you can feel his pain at being a vampire who struggles against what he is. These three fit very well together, making the show strong on their relationships alone.

The series did a decent job of intertwining the three roommates lives and story lines.  Mitchell was a bit of leader in the vampire community despite his attempts at swearing off blood.  Mitchell had a continuing battle with William Herrick, a vampire who has been in his life for long time, and Herrick ends up playing a big part in all three of the main characters lives.  George’s struggle to hide his werewolf side becomes harder when he starts to date Nina.  Nina is a good balance to George and seeing their relationship progress throughout the series is both fun and sad.  Annie, being a ghost, has the hardest time acclimating to her life, but even she gets involved with both Herrick and Nina, as well as achieve closure for her own past experiences.  This makes the series more solid for me since the three do live separate lives but yet are closely meshed to each other.

The series goes through some big changes in seasons four and five, with Turner leaving at the end of season three, and Tovey and Crichlow both departing in season four.  Each of the episodes where these characters left were highly emotional and fitting send offs.  Hal (the vampire), Tom (the werewolf), and Alex (the ghost) were the replacements and were played by good actors, but the series didn’t quite capture the same chemistry or appeal of the original cast members or stories. Of note of these three replacements to me was Michael Socha, who played Tom the werewolf.  He was a worthy replacement of George’s emotional werewolf.  Tom fit well with everyone and had an endearing quality that made him very easy to like.

I will briefly mention the SyFy version of Being Human.  I watched one, maybe two episodes of this rendition, but thought it paled in comparison to the original one (even seasons 4 & 5 were better than the SyFy version).  The SyFy version lacked the chemistry and interest of the original series and I didn’t think the actors were correctly cast.  Note that this opinion is from a very biased love of the original series so it’s not really a fair reflection of the SyFy show.

Being Human ended after the fifth season and I thought the writers did the correct thing by ending the series at that time.  The story of Hal, Tom, and Alex, while not as compelling as the original trio, had run its course, and the series came to a fitting and emotional end.  Of the myriad supernatural series out there, Being Human is one of the better ones, in my opinion.  It wasn’t only about being a werewolf, a vampire, or a ghost.  It was about what makes that person human, even though they have an inhuman quality. It’s also about relationships and how they can help someone through a difficult or trying time.  And that no one should be all alone – everyone needs someone to be there for them, whether it’s just someone to talk to or someone to share similar experiences with.  If you are looking for a grown up version of the supernatural, this show is one to check out. Being Human is available on DVD, via Amazon, or via iTunes (according to the BBC America website).

Shows Worth Watching: Grimm

Image from Wikipedia

This month’s Shows Worth Watching is all about NBC’s Grimm.  The very basic premise of Grimm is it’s a cop show with a slight twist to it.  The twist being that Nick Burkhardt, a Portland homicide detective, is what is known as a Grimm – a line of hunters who fight supernatural forces and beings.  Inspiration for the series is mainly taken from the Grimm Brothers Fairy Tales, a collection of stories from the early 1800’s that, during that time, were fairly scary children’s stories (Snow White, Hansel and Gretel, & Cinderella are some of the more popular Grimm stories).

Nick discovers he’s a Grimm after his aunt comes to visit him because she is dying.  She ends up dying while fighting a Wesen – the group of humans who have a second identity that only Grimm’s can see at all times, or Wesen can choose to let a human see it’s “creature” form – and that causes Nick’s Grimmness to rise to the surface (being a Grimm is a family trait and usually passes on when a family member dies).  The first episode featured a Wesen known as a Blutbot (played by Silas Weir Mitchell and known as Monroe) whom Nick befriends.  This is odd due to Grimm’s usually killing Wesen whenever they can.  The balance of Nick being a detective vs. being a Grimm plays a big part in this series and allows Nick to become friends with several Wesen.

What makes this show enjoyable is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously.  The writers are self-aware that the concept of this show can come off as ridiculous. Viewers see the writers self-awareness via the humor that appears in the show or some of the dialog of the cast.  Another good aspect of Grimm is keeping good characters around.  The character of Monroe is a key point to this.  Being featured in the first episode, making him and Nick become friends, having Monroe be in on investigations, and the overall character development of Monroe were all integral to making this show fun.  Monroe has been fleshed out a lot more over the past seasons and expanding on his story-line adds to the show. The writers do a good job of being able to balance between creature of the week and ongoing plot lines as well.  In a lot of shows, a “… of the week” aspect can get played out and take over a series.  With Grimm, the creature of the week tends to be a fun episode that reminds the viewer Nick is a detective.  The show has used small aspects of the “… of the week” feature in the ongoing plots here and there, tying things together in a not too complicated way.

One thing that has been a slight take away from Grimm is Nick’s girlfriend Juliette.  Juliette is a vet and it first seemed the writers would find a way to work this into Nick’s Wesen world.  Turned out that they didn’t quite know what to do with her.  Juliette more often ended up being a damsel in distress or a convenient plot device, which weakened her character.  However, the current fourth season really turned things around and has given Juliette a much more purposeful story.  I’m not the biggest fan of her current development, but at least she finally got something substantial.  Another thing that seems to get a little complicated is the back-story of the Royals – Wesens who are members of the seven royal families who keep the Wesen world in line.  The mythology of this gets a bit convoluted, making it hard to determine who is who and what side they really are on.  Sometimes it feels as if the mythology of Grimm isn’t known to even the writers.

Grimm will be on its fifth season next year and the most surprising thing about that is it has kept its original cast in tact.  Nick’s partner, Hank, has been a consistent presence since the first episode and has been given his own story-lines rather than be known as “the partner.”  Monroe has been a shining aspect of the show and if he ever left, the show would be seriously hindered.  The show has even managed to add to the cast and provide them with fairly integral roles, with the occasional misses here and there.

Overall Grimm is a fun show to watch and has improved with each season.  The current fourth season being the best so far. This show airs on Friday nights, which for some programs is the death-blow.  However, the Friday night slot works in Grimm’s favor.  It’s nice to be able to tune into a program on a Friday night that seems simplistic on the surface, but really gives the viewers what they want – good old enjoyment.  I highly recommend catching an episode of Grimm.  It’s fun and enjoyable and something to look forward to on Friday nights.

The X-Files is Returning!

The X-Files will be back for a six episode run! Rumors had been going around and some statements were made about a possible return, but now it’s been confirmed by creator Chris Carter.  After a 13 year break David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson will be back as Mulder and Scully.

I’ve posted before on how much I love The X-Files in my Shows Worth Watching post and now official news that it will be returning is good to hear.  Admittedly, I have some trepidation about a favorite show coming back after such a long time being off the air.  Recently, 24 came back for a successful limited show run but 24 didn’t have the big gap in time that The X-Files has had.  Will Mulder and Scully still be relevant?  How will today’s technology affect the story lines and action of the agents? Will the Lone Gunmen make an appearance (how could they not given today’s plethora of outlets to report conspiracy theories, etc.)?

I’m keeping my hopes up that when the shows do finally air, they are able to please life-long fans as well as attract new ones.  Keeping the main original actors and the creator involved is a good sign but judgment will be held until then.  Are you an X-Files fan?  If so, what are your thoughts of the show returning for a limited run? Do you think this is a good idea? I’d love to hear what others think!

Shows Worth Watching: Vikings

Image from history.com

Television today is littered with reality shows.  A finite number of those reality shows are good, and the rest are either mindless, guilty pleasures or utter crap.  One channel that is awash with the latter is the History channel.  A quick glance at their “shows” page lists at least fifteen reality shows. Fifteen.  For a channel named the History channel, this is baffling to say the least.  Thankfully someone at History got a clue and decided to give a shot on a scripted show based on historical people. And it’s actually good.  That show is Vikings.

Image from history.com Lagertha, Ragnar, and Rollo

Vikings is inspired on a mythological Norse hero named Ragnar Lothbrok and the show portrays his journey from farmer to leader via successful raids on English soil, as well as Ragnar’s seemingly complicated family dynamics.  One thing that makes this show work so well is the casting.  The actors selected to play the characters seems to be spot on. Ragnar is played by the insanely good-looking Travis Fimmel, Lagertha, Ragnar’s first wife, is played by the stunning Katheryn Winnick,  Ragnar’s brother Rollo is played by the massive Clive Standen, Ragnar’s close friend and genius shipbuilder is played by the amazing Gustaf Skarsgard, and Athelstan is played by the subdued George Blagden.  The other members of the cast are very good as well, and the aforementioned are ones that stand out to me due to their strong presence whenever they are on the screen as well as the chemistry between the actors themselves.

Another item that makes this show successful is that is does a lot without saying a lot.  Many scenes have limited dialogue, leaving thoughts or feelings left unsaid.  Thoughts or feelings are instead played out by looks conveyed by the actors or glances shared between cast members.  Sometimes the unspoken word is best portrayed by silence and Vikings has found a way to say so much by saying so little.  The production value of the show seems to be fairly good as well.  It’s no Game of Thrones, but for the History channel, its superior to many of its other shows.  One scene from I believe, the second season (I watched the first two seasons in a two-week span so I get a little mixed up on things), was shot so beautifully: Ragnar and his crew were leaving the village for another raid.  The residents of the village were all up on the hilltop watching the ships leave.  No dialogue, just music, images of the villages, Ragnar and his crew sailing away, and even images of grass blowing in the wind.  It was extremely moving and done so well.

An epic scene from season two titled “Blood Eagle” is another example of the excellent production value of this show. Blood eagle is a gruesome way of executing someone.  Essentially, cutting someone’s lungs out and placing them on their back so it looks like blood-stained wings.  When the show has this execution performed it was done in a way to make it seem respectful and beautiful at the same time.  A nighttime shoot, lit with torches and a cast member dressed in white with the villagers watching.  Rather than hear the tortured cries, the show relied on tone, color, and music to convey the scene.  The fact that I find an execution scene beautiful says a lot about the end result.

image from history.com Ragnar and Athelstan

Ragnar’s family dynamics plays a big part in this show as well. Rollo’s constant struggle to be seen as more than Rangar’s brother, Lagertha’s desire to be seen as more than a shield maiden and Ragnar’s wife, and Ragnar’s relationship with his children are all on-going stories throughout the first two seasons.  When Ragnar takes Athelstan the monk back to the village as his prisoner, it sets up a relationship between these two men that allows both to grow and learn from one another.  The interaction between these two is one of value.  They are able to see things in a different light and understand a different system of beliefs that are very foreign to their own.

I’m not an expert on the facts from the time-frame this show takes place in but from what I’ve read, History does a decent job of keeping things accurate.  Given it’s a scripted show, some things will need to be embellished, changed, or even not be as strong of a focus as it may have actually been, but I’m Okay with that since everything else is done with such high quality.  Ragnar’s ambition to do more and be more drives the show. The casting has been chosen well and the characters are allowed to grow and most are well-developed. Season three of Vikings premieres February 19th and previous episodes are available online.  If you haven’t watched it you should give it a try.  If you have watched it, what do you like best about this show? Are you looking forward to season three and where it will take Ragnar and his crew?

Shows Worth Watching: The X-Files

Welcome to a new monthly feature that I’ll be doing: Shows Worth Watching. Once a month I’ll write about a t.v. show that I think is worth the time it takes for viewing.  Shows will be a mix of old ones (i.e., no longer broadcasting), and current ones.  Hope you enjoy it (and if you can think of a better feature name than Shows Worth Watching, I’m open to suggestions 🙂 )

Picture from Wikipedia page

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Fox Mulder: image from Wikipedia

The first t.v. show I’d like to discuss is The X-Files.  A ground breaking show that aired on Fox from 1993 to 2002 and came from the mind of Chris Carter.  Why am I starting with a show that is over 20 years old? Well, if you have to ask, you clearly have never seen The X-Files. All jesting aside, The X-Files is the first because, 1) I love it, 2) it was an excellent show that achieved cult status fairly quickly and then became really popular, and 3) it combined a lot of topics that were interesting, compelling, controversial, and thought-provoking.

FBI agents Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) are teamed up to investigate unsolved cases that appear to be paranormal in nature – know as The X-Files.  Mulder is a skilled profiler and has an unyielding belief in the existence of extraterrestrial life.  Part of this belief is steeped in the mystery surrounding the disappearance of his sister, Samantha, whom he believes was abducted by aliens when he was 12-years-old.  Scully is a doctor and a skeptic to events of the paranormal and alien life.  The FBI teams these two up as a balance to one another, and as a way to possibly debunk any of Mulder’s proof of paranormal or alien existence.  This teaming works well – the chemistry between the two actors was evident and the characters respect each other as well as their ideas, enabling both to see the others viewpoint.

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Dana Scully: Image from Wikipedia

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The Lone Gunmen: Image from Wikipedia

Their boss, Walter Skinner (Mitch Pileggi), FBI assistant director, works well in his role too.  At first he seems not have too much interest in any of Mulder and Scully’s cases.  As episodes progress, Skinner starts to side with the agents and becomes more than a boss, often helping them when he can and sometimes even covering for them.  The Smoking Man (William B. Davis) is the main nemesis of Mulder and Scully throughout the series.  He seems to be one who is hiding a lot of information and gets in Mulder and Sully’s way whenever they seem to be on the verge of discovering something.  It is eventually revealed that The Smoking Man is part of the Syndicate, a group of men who appear to orchestrate many lies and cover-ups, providing the basis of a government conspiracy to cover-up the existence of alien life that will be featured frequently throughout the life of series.  Another group of characters that needs to be mentioned, who showed up periodically, and became fan favorites is The Lone Gunmen.  Known mainly by their last names: Langly, Frohike, and Byers.  They were conspiracy theorists and often assisted and provided information to and for Mulder and Scully.  The Lone Gunmen became allies and friends of the agents and were always delight to see when they appeared in an episode.  The Lone Gunmen had a brief stint in a series of their own, but it didn’t last long (and truthfully, I don’t even remember it).

A major plot line that ran throughout The X-Files was Mulder’s search for his sister.  Mulder’s sister was seemingly taken by aliens when he was 12. This incident stayed with Mulder and is part of the reason why he is so adamant about the existence of alien life. Several episodes focus on clues about her disappearance and a growing suspicion that the FBI and the government know a lot more than they are willing to admit.  This really becomes the overall mythology of The X-Files and carries from season to season, culminating in the series finale.

When not focusing on the mythology of aliens, The X-Files featured episodes about the paranormal, unbelievable, and unexplained.  A few of my favorite non-mythology episodes were: Miracle Man, Duane Barry, Dod Kalm, and Home.  These episodes ranged from the spiritual, to the grotesque, to the legend and lore, and everything in between. The tag line of The X-Files was “I Want to Believe”. Something that Mulder was desperate to stay true to and something that fans of the show took to heart.  As a viewer, the show made you want to believe.  The conviction of Mulder’s beliefs combined with Scully’s level head-opinions and the government conspiracy threaded throughout the series made believing seem realistic.

The last two seasons of the series were a little less likable.  David Duchovny has mostly departed the show and Robert Patrick stepped in to play Agent John Doggett. Patrick is a fine actor but the departure of Duchovny and the lack of focus on the mythology of the series was disappointing.  Duchovny did come back for a few episodes and the series ended in the 9th season to a somewhat satisfying conclusion. The show also spawned two Movies: The X-Files (Fight the Future) and The X-Files: I Want to Believe.  The first film was the much better of the two with the focus being on the mythology, but any fan of The X-Files was content with even a mediocre second film.

So, if you are looking for a series to watch that is in the sci-fi realm, The X-Files is for you.  Like most series, the first few episodes are a little rough in terms of look and production value with improvements evident as the series progresses.  The acting is good throughtout the run and some excellent appearances by well known and loved actors (Bryan Cranston, Tony Shalhou, Lucy Lawless, and CCH Pounder to name a few) are well worth the viewing.  I’m obviously a fan and of the show and hope that you will become one too (if you aren’t one already!).