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‘The X-Files: Season 11’ #6 Sets the Poisoned Pawn

XFiless11_06_cvrWritten by: Joe Harris
Art by: Matthew Dow Smith
Colors by: Jordie Bellaire
Letters by: Chris Mowry
Editor : Denton J. Tipton
Executive Producer: Chris Carter

Published January 20, 2016 by IDW Publishing

The X-Files mythology arcs have always felt like a chess game playing out. Mulder and Scully were the pawns, moving painfully slowly across the board, seeing the other pieces in their vicinity but never the board as a whole. The partial information could be put together to arrange a tentative map of the board’s arrangement, but in the meantime, pieces were still moving, often negating previously known truths.

Joe Harris understands this and pulls the analogy quite literally into the opening pages of issue #6 of The X-Files: Season 11. “Endgames Part 1” is the first of a two-part “season finale” for the latest arc/season of IDW’s comic book series continuing where the show concluded in 2002 with season 9. Let me clarify that this series runs a different future scenario than the newly revived television mini-season 10.

For the rest of my review, click through to PopOptiq.com.

http://www.popoptiq.com/the-x-files-season-11-6-review/

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The Fringe Binge, Part 1: Season 4 aka The Best Season

FRINGE-Key-Art110901140313Four years back, we dropped cable in the interest of saving money, vowing to use much more affordable streaming services to keep up with the shows we watched each week, including Fringe. But the practical effect of that move was that Fringe got put on hold with a strong intention to catch up with it again someday. In the newborn phase after my second child’s birth this summer, that day has come.

Fringe has always had the reputation of being an aughts replacement for The X-Files, and certainly it did have the crime procedural married to tales of a supernatural or bizarre nature and an overarching “mythology” narrative, Fringe proved itself distinct from its ancestor.  Watching season 4 over the last few weeks brought home Fringe’s special recipe, and I dare say it has earned a place in the pantheon of great sci-fi television.

I do intend to write specifically about certain plot events, episodes, and moments, so if you’d like to remain naive on the season’s stories, stop reading now.

Season 3 ended with Peter getting in the Machine to create a bridge between the two universes to help stabilize both and allow the two Fringe teams to work together for more solutions. That meant that Peter was erased from the timeline as it got reset and 10-year-old Peter drowned in a lake, as he should have done without the Observer’s help.

fringe-peterreturns4So when season 4 picks back up, we return to the Fringe team we’re used to, but now they’re working with the other side, the other side is healing, and no one remembers Peter at all. But as the episodes add up, and Peter’s non-corporeal presence attempts to reach back into their reality, it becomes clearer and clearer what Peter’s presence meant to the team, especially Walter and Olivia. Olivia, without Peter in her life, has remained distrustful of everyone around her. She has remained the guarded, distant Olivia of the first season without the opening bond with Peter. Likewise, Walter stays distant from the world around him. He never leaves the lab and, in fact, sleeps in it. Astrid is his eyes and ears on the world through a camera she wears like a Bluetooth over-the-ear microphone.

What strikes me as a major difference between Fringe and The X-Files is the emphasis on the relationships in Fringe. This season largely explores the relationships between Peter and Walter and Olivia, but it also focuses on Lincoln’s relationships with his former partner and Olivia, Olivia’s relationship with Nina Sharp, and even Astrid’s relationship with her father. In fact, parent-child relationships are paramount. John Noble as Walter is a font of sympathy, pathos, and humor as he navigates the return of a Peter he didn’t know existed. Each Fringe event that the team studies directly mirrors the interpersonal conflicts of the team. The themes in both A- and B-plots are reflective in a way I don’t remember being as strong in the first three seasons.

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Of course, rather than The X-Files‘ obsession with aliens, Fringe deep dives into the concepts of time and alternate realities. In season 3, we met Olivia’s and Walter’s alternate universe selves–nicknamed Bolivia or later Fauxlivia and Walternate respectively. We also met the other side’s Astrid, Lincoln, and Broyles. Each of them is a plausible variation on the character we came to know in the first two seasons. Now, in season 4 with the timeline reset and Peter gone, we get slight variations on both sets of characters we got to know in season 3. Walternate in season 3 was villainous, but Walternate in season 4 is well-meaning but hard. The doubling down on the variations of character is fascinating. A highlight is when Astrid finally meets her doppleganger, who is on the spectrum, and they bond.

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I’m very pleased I decided to catch back up with season 4. The show antes up the relationships and concepts it built over the previous three seasons and creates what I would argue is the best season of the show.


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Old Favorites and Our Savior Appearing in New ‘X-Files’

gillian-anderson-and-david-duchovnyMultiple announcements concerning new X-Files cast members has come out in recent days, and it’s all very exciting.

First, THE LONE GUNMEN are back! Confirmed for the series are our favorite conspiracy nuts Langly, Frohike, and Byers – Dean Hagland, Tom Braidwood, and Bruce Harwood respectively. Now, these guys supposedly died in Season 9 of the show but were shown to have faked their deaths during the Season 10 comic book series. But they could also appear via any number of other fictional means: flashback, a found recording, dream sequence. But hopefully Carter and co. will just go with the faked death thing. It would be just like them–paranoid, intelligent, resourceful, and completely bad-ass.

lonegunmen

Second, OUR SAVIOR Kumail Nanjiani is guest starring. Nanjiani’s passion for The X-Files has been partially credited for getting this revival going. Nanjiani is an X-Files superfan when he’s not acting on Silicon Valley. He hosts Kumail Nanjiani’s The X-Files Files, a wonderful podcast that takes a look at each episode individually and discusses them with a guest fan, cast or crew member. He’s had many of the X-Files writers on, including his favorite Darin Morgan, as well as other comedians, actors, and television royalty like Dan Harmon, creator of Community. By raising awareness and affection for the show and also contacting the cast and crew for the podcast, Nanjiani got this ball rolling. If anyone deserves some love, it’s this guy. When he’s on the screen, it will be like all of us fanatics getting to guest star.

Finally, Lauren Ambrose from Six Feet Under and Robbie Amell from The Flash will be guest starring as new agents. Clearly preferential casting towards red-headed women and tall, dark haired men. I approve.

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Fox Pursuing an X-Files Revival

mulderexcitedThe rumors are true! Fox executives have been talking to Chris Carter about reviving The X-Files as a television show. Additionally, they want David Duchovney and Gillian Anderson to reprise their roles. Now, it’s just a matter of scheduling, since both actors have previously said they were open to reprising their roles, at least in another movie.

But that may not be true for a show. In the past, both have bemoaned the long hours it takes to make an hour-long television show, especially one mostly set at night, like The X-Files was. However, since both have been mainly working in television during the past few years, one can only imagine they’d consider it. Of course, who knows if they would be the stars or just recurring guests. Considering the narrative arc of the final season and second film, it seems unlikely they could just be Agents Mulder and Scully, partners-as-the-FBI’s-most-unwanted, again 12 years after the end of the original run.

coolshowsI’m not sure how popular a revived The X-Files without them would be. Perhaps it’s been long enough that a younger audience would be open to new central actors. Fringe got five seasons, after all. But on the other hand, their story feels a little played out. The second X-Files film was a disappointment, especially after the first one was so fantastic. I ended up wondering if Carter was up to the task of continuing the story of Mulder and Scully properly.

But if the show does get produced, no doubt I’ll tune in to check it out. And just for fun, here’s a video celebrating the great Mulder/Scully chemistry.

 

 


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A Compulsive Shipper’s Confession

captain swanIt is 7:06 p.m. Sunday night as I begin this post. Once Upon a Time‘s season 4 premiere began minutes ago. I am not watching it, because we ditched cable television almost two years ago. We now rely on Netflix and Hulu Plus. I won’t get to watch the season premiere until tomorrow night. And there is some pain in that, because I am a Captain Swan shipper, and their pull on me is strong.

My shipping goes way back. Did Moonlighting or Night Court happen first? In any case, every show that has gained my fanatical devotion has also engaged my shipper-protocol. In fact my interest in Once Upon a Time was waning at the start of season 3 before episode 5’s big first kiss between Captain Hook and Emma Swan. That one scene sorta turned everything around for me. Suddenly I was all-in like I had never been before. And don’t get me started on the last two episodes of season 3 wherein Hook and Emma travel back in time together to the Enchanted Forest. Captain Swan dream come true right there.

Shipping can get out of control. Thus far, I’ve only wasted a couple hours total looking for Captain Swan pictures for my iPad’s wallpaper or rewatching kiss scenes from the key episodes of season 3. I have not delved into fanfiction (like I once did during my X-Files Mulder-Scully shipping days). Heck, I haven’t even followed the actors on Twitter (as my husband does).

But how did I realize I was a compulsive shipper? It was when our toddler got to the end of the Handy Manny episodes and I was ecstatic that Manny and Kelly finally went on a date. Would that ship be called Handy Kelly?

handy_manny_l_o_v_e_xd_by_karolinastephanie-d3gf2g6

The internet tells me I’m not the only one. I don’t know whether to be consoled or disturbed by that.

 


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I Grow Weary of the Dramatic Doppelganger

I am a fan of The Vampire Diaries, which is my kind of soap opera: high school (originally) and vampires. See also: Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

However, recently I realized it has absolutely obliterated my interest in doppelganger plot-lines. I noticed this as we entered into the second half of Once Upon a Time Season 3, wherein the main cast returns from Neverland to Storybrooke. [Spoiler warning]. In a last ditch effort to keep himself alive, Peter Pan pulls a “Grand Theft Me” on Henry, swapping bodies and sending Henry into Pandora’s Box, and Pan into the loving arms of Henry’s extended fairy tale family. He then plots to turn Storybrooke into a New Neverland (would have been the lamest Neverland ever, seriously).

Although I had been tipped off to this plot twist via IMDB’s cast list, as soon as happened, I sighed disparagingly. And that was the moment that I realized that Vampire Diaries had nailed the lid on the coffin of this trope for me.

Elenakatherine418Over the course of 5 seasons, Vampire Diaries has used the doppelganger trope ad nauseum. Elena and Katherine has been a seasonal showdown, but during this last season, Katherine ported herself magically into Elena’s body and forced Elena’s consciousness down. During this time, Katherine attempted to act like Elena but did so quite poorly. Since everyone thought Katherine dead, they were extra idiotic about “Elena’s” odd behaviors. Katherine’s charade went on for many episodes, which is like seasons for the fast turning plot of Vampire Diaries. When they did finally get Elena back in her own body and Katherine got whisked away to the void, Elena was understandably irate that her friends had failed to notice it wasn’t her. But honestly, she wasn’t near angry enough. Their absolute failure to recognize there was something wrong bordered on the absurd. She should have left Mystic Falls and never returned after seeing how inattentive her friends were.

But this was just the most recent of their doppelganger plot-lines. Stefan also has an evil doppleganger who mucks up trouble in multiple seasons. Actually, both of them have two doppelgangers. Though I find it promising that last season made Stefan and Elena the last living doppelgangers. So maybe the show has put the trope to rest.

However, let me credit Once Upon A Time for handling it judiciously. First, Emma wasn’t an idiot and noticed pretty quickly that Henry wasn’t acting normally, and Regina’s naivety about the switch was believable due to her desire to have Henry need her. Second, it was only about one whole episode before the body switch was discovered and another half episode before it was reversed. Finally, the conclusion to the whole Pan arc had huge emotional pay offs. Although I was wary of the doppelganger trope when it showed up, I came to value where it took the characters and the show.

But let me clarify that it seems my ire only gets tripped with dramatic uses of the doppelganger. I never seem to get tired of the doppelganger trope being used in a comedic fashion. See: The X-Files “Dreamland,” Farscape “Out of Their Minds,” and Buffy the Vampire Slayer “Doppelgangland.”

It’s apparently the dramatic irony that I loathe. In these body swapping instances writers are ruthless about twisting the viewers’ emotions and expectations. Often it will be used as an excuse to allow a couple to get together (but then go back on it once the swap is reversed). An example of this is in the season 4 X-Files episode “Small Potatoes” when shape shifting villain Eddie Van Blundt masquerades as Mulder and puts the moves on Scully, one of the funniest episodes of that season. Alternatively, the writers will drive a wedge in a relationship by having the doppelganger say or do something unforgivable that can’t be forgiven and forgotten even after their true identity is revealed. This was done on Vampire Diaries in episode 5.12 “The Devil Inside” when Katherine, in Elena’s body, rejects Damon’s heartfelt speech to get back together with words that speak to his greatest insecurity. This scene is played for absolute heartbreak.

Perhaps the key is that comedies end with a happy restoration of the status quo and dramas end with a sad, ironic gut punch. I end up often feeling manipulated by a dramatic doppelganger and then resenting that manipulation.

Television, let the dramatic doppelganger die.


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The Joy of Shipping

What this is not: an effusive demonstration of devotion to UPS, USPS, or FedEx. That’s not the shipping I mean.

I’m talking about (relation)shipping, the act of desiring a fictional couple to get into a romantic relationship. Generally speaking, this couple is one that is being kept apart for various reasons: there is something “wrong” about them being together (Logan and Veronica on Veronica Mars, Buffy and Spike on Buffy the Vampire Slayer), their relationship must remain platonic for professional reasons (Mulder and Scully on The X-Files, Mal and Inara on Firefly, Castle and Beckett on Castle), or the show is just milking the romantic tension (see all the above but also Maddie and David on Moonlighting, Sam and Diane on Cheers). Alternatively, this could be a couple that the show gives only a hint of an attraction, allowing a kind of camp or slash reading which could allow for non-hetero sexual pairings, like Xena and Gabrielle on Xena: Warrior Princess prior to the final seasons where their relationship became overt canon.

imageI love the charge of electricity in a great shipper couple. I shipped Mulder and Scully hardcore for many years, even going so far as to read fanfiction that would take them down romantic, non-canonical roads. I would pour over screenshots like the one from “Post-Modern Prometheus” on the left there and watch video clips on YouTube. Talented shippers often show their enthusiasm through images and videos splicing together key moments for the couple.

I think my last shipping excitement was for Logan and Veronica back in 2006. So imagine my joy when a few nights ago the feeling hits me again.

We are midway through season 3 of Once Upon a Time, and I find myself inexplicably pulled into the throes of shipping once again with Emma and Hook. To add to the wrongness of it, my husband has found Hook despicable. But he’s so cute with his tousled hair and black eyeliner. Of course, he’s exactly wrong for Emma, which is exactly what makes him so right. He’s the bad boy type with his black leather duster and his hook hand. But he’s also a great match for Emma. They get each other, understand each other’s tricks. As a former bails bondsman, she’s used these tricks as well as foiled them many times over. There’s clear chemistry. And, he’s not unlike Neil was 12 years prior–a thief and a liar, a criminal with a heart for Emma.

Is this line a Princess Bride reference, making Hook the Dread Pirate Roberts and Emma Buttercup? Suits them.

Is this line a Princess Bride reference, making Hook the Dread Pirate Roberts and Emma Buttercup? Suits them.

But coming to the shipping so late means that some of my normal shipper activities are risky. I realized this when simply seeking out the video clip of the S3.E5 first kiss. Though there are plenty of fan-made videos, images, and fanfic to indulge in, to do so means opening myself up to all of the spoilers for the episodes we haven’t caught up with yet. Boo.

I’ve found OUAT to be a mixed bag, but the shipping has renewed my interest and then some.

Emma + Hook 4-Evah!