Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The X-Files: The Red and the Black (5.14)

It's pretty much a miracle that The Red and the Black, while still featuring several dozen subplots of varying levels of messy complication, isn't a complete disaster. Most of the elements present are now pretty familiar to conspiracy episodes. We have Mulder and Scully surveying a military base, the Syndicate falling apart while yelling at each other in gorgeous dining rooms, Krycek beating the crap out of people or alternatively getting the crap between out of him. It's all been done before, with varying levels of success. However, there are also some undeniably wonderful moments scattered throughout the script, something that surprised me. I always find it hard to write about the conspiracy episodes because they're so often written as huge dumps of information, but I actually liked this hour for the most part.

The hypnotherapy scene was pretty remarkable. We have Gillian Anderson shocked and in total awe while seated in a room somewhere, remembering the complete disbelief she was experiencing as she witnessed the UFO overhead. It's a stunning moment, Gillian ridiculously powerful, and the effects as Cassandra floats up into the UFO pretty breath-taking, especially the little shards of ash rising up alongside an awestruck Scully.

At the same time, I liked that Chris Carter brought the drama back to a human level with that great scene where Scully tries to get Mulder to grant her the same support she has always given him, even when she didn't believe his theories and 'mission'. She just wants him to reciprocate her faith in him. Elsewhere, I already knew that Jeffrey Spender was the CSM's son, but again I like the show putting a human face to the various conspiracies and agendas. Spender is an interesting character, clearly coming from an unbalanced home. His mother supposedly went crazy, he has been brought up to lie about alien abduction, and his father is a governmental sleaze-ball. Yikes.

Chris Carter still seems to set out to make his scripts as cluttered as possible, but The Red and the Black does seem to have an agenda behind it and a sense of purpose that is frequently absent from the conspiracy episodes. Some truly stunning scenes this week, too. B

Guest stars Mitch Pileggi (A.D. Walter Skinner); Nicholas Lea (Alex Krycek); Veronica Cartwright (Cassandra Spender); John Neville (The Well-Manicured Man); George Murdock (Elder #2); Chris Owens (Jeffrey Spender); Laurie Holden (Marita Covarrubias); Brian Thompson (Alien Bounty Hunter); Don S. Williams (Elder #1); Jim Jansen (Dr. Heitz Werber); Alex Shostak, Jr. (Dmitri)
Writers Chris Carter, Frank Spotnitz Director Chris Carter

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