Thursday, December 16, 2010

The X-Files: Max (4.18)

Strangely for an episode in which he barely appeared, and even stranger considering he's not even what you would call a recurring character, I found Max Fenig curiously affecting here. I don't know if it was the prolonged fear he conveyed in the abduction scene, or just how driven and aware of his likely demise he was in the video he left for Mulder and Scully, but he was a tragic character, and I just felt terrible for everything he'd experienced in his life. The repeated abductions, the determination to get the truth out there. He's like an unluckier version of Mulder.

I was pretty much in awe at how great this episode was, probably because I'm so used to the mythology episodes being so vague and annoying. Though it shares a lot of thematic similarities with every other conspiracy episode (chases through airports, mysterious alien artifacts, abductions, loose ends), there's a streamlined, condensed feel to this two-parter, moving the series away from the de rigour of CSM and Krycek and exploring new avenues in familiar material. Pretensions resurface in Scully's closing monologue, but even that is given the welcome antidote of Mulder's snarky retort about why he really purchased her birthday gift.

The budget once again feels wonderfully utilized, and the airplane-abduction scene is pretty much a masterpiece. It's terrifying to watch unfold, and ultimately pretty awful when you realize that all the people you're watching will end up dead soon after. Equally effective is Pendrell's demise. He's probably the only truly expendable recurring character on the show right now, but his death isn't a cheap gimmick. It's an uneventful, realistic murder, and punctuated with Scully's realization that she never even knew his first name, despite Pendrell's clear crush on her. Aww.

While both Tempus Fugit and Max are technically a two-parter, it is evident that they are both two very different stories. Guest characters from the first part are dropped here, while the sweeps-week quality of Tempus Fugit is happily taken apart, leaving an hour more about destiny and hope than anything unnecessarily action-driven. Maybe I'm looking at the episodes in a vacuum of just being happy for once that a mythology hour isn't appalling, but I thought these were both pretty great. A

Guest stars Mitch Pileggi (A.D. Walter Skinner); Joe Spano (Mike Millar); Tom O'Brien (Louis Frisch); Scott Bellis (Max Fenig); Chilton Crane (Sharon Graffia); Brendan Beiser (Agent Pendrell)
Writers Chris Carter, Frank Spotnitz Director Kim Manners

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