Sunday, April 29, 2012

The X-Files: This Is Not Happening (8.14)

It's always admirable when a genre show focuses on the raw naturalism of an extreme event. Fox Mulder vanished several months ago, without a trace. Nobody would rationally believe that he'd been taken by extraterrestrial forces. His entire being is somewhere unexplainable. Every part of him has gone, and the people left behind are constantly hitting brick walls in their pursuit of him. The entire concept of a person just disappearing is unimaginably awful, and this episode successfully put the honest truth of the situation ahead of myth-arc hoodoo... and that was nice.

It's Scully who expresses the pain here. She's still being plagued by those nightmares involving Mulder's torture, while the finest moments are derived from her complete breakdown at the thought of Mulder turning up dead somewhere, as well as in that arresting closer where she cries out in anguish over the belief that her last hope has similarly vanished. It's just an incredibly intimate storyline, and has given the Mulder arc this season far more dimension than it easily could have had.

I'm not entirely won over by Annabeth Gish's Monica Reyes, but I don't actively dislike her yet. However, I can understand why she bothered a lot of fans. She seems to be portrayed as the Mulder to Doggett's Scully, while her 'quirky' tics feel a little too Newbie Introduction 101 to truly work. But Gish is strong, and she does her best with what feels like a character in progress. I also enjoyed her history with Doggett, especially the things that were left unsaid between them but are heavily implied through register and saddened silences.

This Is Not Happening sometimes falls back too often on the same repeated plot devices, while the return of Jeremiah Smith is another example of the show pulling from such dinosaur continuity that it can't help but come off as a little contrived -- but Gillian Anderson is spectacular, and the rawness of Scully's pain easily carries the first hour of this two-parter. B

Guest stars Annabeth Gish (Monica Reyes); Mitch Pileggi (Walter Skinner); Roy Thinnes (Jeremiah Smith); Judd Trichter (Richie Szalay); Judson Scott (Absalom); Sarah Koskoff (Theresa Hoese); Bernard White (Dr. Desai); Eddie Kaye Thomas (Gary Cole)
Writers Chris Carter, Frank Spotnitz Director Kim Manners

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