Sunday, July 29, 2012

The X-Files: Sunshine Days (9.18)

These last run of episodes have seemingly been trying to represent every past sensibility of The X-Files, bouncing from serial killer horror to monster supernature, back round to alien mythology and now comedy experimentation. Sunshine Days is a little light on the comedy, but Vince Gilligan lends a neat sense of strangeness to the episode, which opens up as a wacky goof-ball mystery full of strange eccentrics and visions of 1970's sitcoms, before settling on more character-driven drama with a surprisingly tender father/son relationship. It's tonally disoriented, but easily reflects all the ideas and creativity of the X-Files writing team over the years.

There's a definite somersault quality to the episode, especially with the way we're supposed to treat Oliver as time passes -- opening the episode as a sinister murderer, before being exposed as a vulnerable soul with daddy issues; but I ended up liking his relationship with his mentor, and the romanticism of a man putting a cap on his murderous urges purely out of love and his need for some kind of friendship. It's all ridiculous, naturally, but Michael Emerson sells the awkwardness.

It's also interesting to see Vince Gilligan make something of a meta commentary on The X-Files itself, too, especially in regards to Oliver's experience with The Brady Bunch and how he was desperate for it not to end. In some ways it's a neat reflection on this show itself coming to an end, and the message that you can't allow yourself to get so emotionally wrapped up in a bunch of fiction without being left with an empty feeling once it meets its natural end. I'm probably grasping at straws there, but I liked the parallel.

Sunshine Days isn't spectacular, but has a warmth and depth of feeling that makes for a sweet final standalone hour. It's also neat seeing everybody have fun again, from Scully's glee at a scientific discovery, to Doggett finally getting a handle on his job and Reyes remembering her fondness for the brightly-colored sitcoms of yesteryear. B

Guest stars
Michael Emerson (Oliver Martin); John Aylward (Dr. John Rietz); Tyson Turrou (Blake McCormick); Stephen W. Bridgewater (Dr. Henry Jacocks); David Faustino (Michael Daley)
Writer Vince Gilligan Director Vince Gilligan

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