Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The X-Files: The Blessing Way (3.1)

Season three opens, and with it a whole new perspective. There's a confidence and a more defined sense of ambition to this episode that has so far been absent from the series as a whole, with an undeniable sense of rising dread as Scully uncovers a deeper conspiracy at work and we as an audience invited to meet the power players at the center of the show's mythology.

The Blessing Way works like a spiritual sister episode to Ascension, only with the roles reversed. Here, Mulder has vanished and Scully is left trying to pick up the pieces. It's a great decision to have Scully thrown deeper into the mythology of the series, with the chip discovered in her neck, while her personality continues to evolve at the same time. She's no longer the trademark skeptic, in blatant denial over the existence of otherworldly phenomena, but an actual piece of the over-arching puzzle. Gillian Anderson is pretty badass here, resourceful and smart, but free of the impulsive and easily-coerced qualities that Mulder possesses.

Another positive decision made by the writers is to give an actual face to the bad guys at work. We're introduced to a shadowy contingent of cigarette-smoking men, each one operating to keep the truth hidden, while at the same time Scully encounters her own vague, mysterious pseudonym'ed conspiracy dude: The Well Manicured Man. Said dude appears to be helping Scully, or at least going against his co-horts, but who knows where his real allegiances lie?

Before I get too positive, there are unsurprisingly down-points to the episode. The Blessing Way is undeniably an hour of two defined halves, one full of action and mystery, the other weighed down by the continued Navajo mysticism and pretentious dialogue. Mulder's stuck in some floaty ritual where he encounters a bunch of dead folk, but it's so uninteresting that it's not worth discussing. This is part two of a trilogy, so it's unsurprising that some of the script seems to have been deliberately staggered for the sake of the three-parter.

It doesn't explicitly follow up on the doozy of a cliffhanger that closed season two, but The Blessing Way fully utilizes Scully as a new perspective on the series as a whole. She's no longer blindly creating logical theories for mysterious phenomena, but actively trying to actually understand what could remain simply unexplained. She's a wonderful character, and the show finally seems to trust her with such heavy material. Rating B+

Guest stars Mitch Pileggi (A.D. Walter Skinner); Peter Donat (William Mulder); Floyd Red Crow Westerman (Albert Hosteen); Melinda McGraw (Melissa Scully); Sheila Larken (Margaret Scully); Nicholas Lea (Alex Krycek); William B. Davis (The Cigarette Smoking Man); John Neville (The Well Manicured Man); Tom Braidwood (Melvin Frohike); Jerry Hardin (Deep Throat)
Writer Chris Carter Director R.W. Goodwin

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