Sunday, July 15, 2012

The X-Files: Improbable (9.13)

Like last episode, there's a definite sense of the show repeating stock ideas but pushing them through the use of new characters. But while last week's Underneath played around with an idea that hasn't produced spectacular results at any point in the show's history, Improbable relies upon the concept of free-will and how everything in our lives is the result of some kind of universal algorithm. It's something that's been done before in the classic Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose as well as to lesser effect in season seven's Goldberg Variation, but Improbable manages to find amusing new areas within the concept, as well as featuring a charming performance from the legendary Burt Reynolds.

One of the strongest aspects to Improbable is the partnership between Scully and Reyes, and their varying reactions to the idea that everything is connected. While Reyes has her mind blown by the possibility that life is pre-determined and intricately orchestrated by some sort of grand design, Scully is appalled by it -- surely it makes her entire being as well as science itself ultimately meaningless if they're all just minor players in a far larger scheme that nobody could ever understand or analyze? It's an interesting exploration, leveled by the comedic ridiculousness of Burt Reynolds as a man likely to be God himself, distracting everybody with his fondness for checkers.

There's always a self-indulgent quality to Chris Carter "experimental" episodes, and it's definitely present here with some of the less successful comedy set-pieces and the on-the-nose 'wackiness' of certain moments. But the pops of color and the elaborate lip-synching are both glorious, while the use of sound and the repetitive shots of numeric action in a bustling downtown metropolis all combine to make something that's clearly very special and unique. I didn't love Improbable, but there's definitely a lot to like about it. Most importantly, it's a sign that The X-Files still occasionally has something interesting to say, despite how derivative most of the show has recently become. A-

Guest stars Burt Reynolds (Mr. Burt); Ray McKinnon (Mad Wayne); John Kapelos (Agent Fordyce); Ellen Greene (Vicki Louise Burdick); Beth Watson (Woman)
Writer Chris Carter Director Chris Carter

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