Binge-Watching The X-Files

I recently started watching The X-Files for the first time. When it premiered almost 25 years ago, I didn’t watch much TV. But now, working at home and having access to c52a782d86e841116a324a1032dcfa74streaming video, binge-watching is one of my favorite things. Since I watch nearly every paranormal/supernatural show I can find, finally watching The X-Files was bound to happen.

Let me be clear about one thing. I do like the show. I’m into season 7 now, so obviously I enjoy it. I’m less clear about why it has achieved legendary status and a reboot. (I’m looking forward to the reboot seasons, though! Another week or so and I should be there.)

Since it premiered in 1993, I expected it to feel dated, and it does, a little. The cars, technology, wardrobe, even the on-screen graphics show it’s not a recent production. I was surprised to find the feel of the show felt dated even for 1993. Then I decided that’s what they were going for. Sort of a noir atmosphere, or a somber Twilight Zone tone. Fine. I can live with that.

But there are still some things that nag at me as I’m watching.

  • Scully’s wardrobe. I know it’s 1993 business professional stuff, but were the suits really so boxy then? And collars up to the jaw? Because I’ve seen nuns and Amish grandmothers looking more stylish. I assume Gillian Anderson has a figure under there, but you rarely catch even the faintest hint. I’m not saying dress her up like she’s on The Bachelorettee, but c’mon.
  • Lack of facial expressions. I’ll probably catch hell for this, but I don’t think Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny are spectacular actors. They’re not bad. They’re just not…great. The lack of facial expressions is almost amusing. It’s like all their emotions are on a dimmer switch set to low. Even when they raise their voices, their faces barely move. It’s almost like a ventriloquist dummy. The mouth moves, and the eyes go back and forth, and that’s it. Sometimes it even looks like they’re trying to speak while moving their mouths as little as possible. Duchovny has at most three expressions. Neutral/brooding, alarmed or excited (which are the same) with slightly widened eyes and open mouth, and worried/angry/furious which involves a somewhat furrowed brow.

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  • Where’s the humor? I get it, it’s a serious show. But even the most serious, dark shows usually break it up now and then, or have the wacky best friend, nosy neighbor, quirky co-worker, running jokes…something to lighten the tone once in a while. As I’m getting to later seasons, it has improved. There are a few episodes where they break from the weighty story arc, like the time the shapeshifter guy locked Mulder in the basement and put the moves on Scully, or the one where they went to Texas and discovered vampires, and they were each recounting the case from their perspective to Skinner. Mostly, though, it’s dark, dark, dark and kind of oppressive. Oh, The Lone Gunmen? They’re awesome.

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  • Zero chemistry. Maybe it’s coming, or maybe it’s just never going to happen, but most shows which feature male and female leads usually bring them together eventually. Booth and Bones, for example. They didn’t get together until the start of season 7, but even before then, they had a lot of chemistry. I know, it’s not necessary for them to get together; it doesn’t change the point of the show. But, hey, maybe then they’d show some emotion. Not betting on it, though.
  • Are there aliens or not? At this point, I guess there are. There’s that fetus they’re passing around like a dead baby football and using to try to breed hybrids. But it could well turn out to be something else. First, it’s “the government is covering up the existence of aliens.” Then, “the government is pretending to cover up the existence of aliens so people will think that’s what they’re up to and not notice they’re really conducting human experiments.” Now I think it’s “all of the above, but there are actually aliens involved in the experiments.” Maybe. That could change in the next episode.

One thing I really enjoy is watching the list of guest stars after the opening theme. So many actors who have become favorites in other shows appeared on The X-Files back in the day. Mark Sheppard, Laurie Holden, Luke Wilson, Bruce Campbell, Willie Garson, Peter Boyle, Seth Green, Bryan Cranston, Donal Logue, Kurtwood Smith, James Pickens Jr., just to name a few.

So, what do you think? Are you a fan of The X-Files? What do I need to know, or what am I just not seeing clearly? I like it a lot. I’ll keep watching. But I don’t see me getting an “I Want To Believe” tattoo any time soon.

Doctor Who Universe

A couple of months ago, I started watching Doctor Who for the first time. Just the modern seasons, not the originals. I’ve now finished all ten current seasons, and I have to say I like it…but I don’t love it. I’m not a crazed fan, and if they said there wouldn’t be any more seasons, I wouldn’t be heartbroken. I liked it enough to watch all ten seasons, though.

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My favorite Doctor is definitely 11, Matt Smith, and my favorite companion is Amy. I liked Rose, despite her awful makeup that seemed to run off her face every time she cried, which was a lot, and never took to Martha Jones much. Then Amy came along, and I really loved her story arc.

When the 12th Doctor came along, I tried to like Peter Capaldi, but he was more dour and less quirky than #11, and I never fully connected with him. I thought I’d like Bill a lot, but ultimately she was mostly just okay.

My favorite episode overall was the one with Amy and van Gogh. It was poignant and thought-provoking and definitely hit all the feels. There’s even a knitting pattern for a scarf like Amy wore, and I’m probably going to make it.

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I suppose I’m looking forward a bit to the introduction of the first female Doctor in season 11, but not with “watch the calendar” enthusiasm.

Then I moved on to Torchwood. I’d say I like it about the same as Doctor Who. I know a lot of viewers are enthralled by John Barrowman, but he doesn’t do it for me. He’s not a very good actor, and I know he’s supposed to be the dashing hero, but he looks like a cookie cutter right out of central casting, or a cartoon of the handsome Captain Jack Harkness brought to life.

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There’s not a particular character or relationship that resonates with me, and I’m not sure why. I know Owen was supposed to be the good-looking rascal, but I seriously hoped he was going to be killed off at the end of season 1. He annoys me.

The relationship between Gwen and Rhys seems forced and isn’t enhancing the storyline. Ianto is potentially interesting, but feels two-dimensional. He does have some of the best deadpan one-liners, though. Tosh is okay, too, but not terribly compelling.

But I’m only a few episodes into season 2, so maybe that will all develop more.

Who are your favorites and least favorites on Doctor Who and Torchwood? Are there aspects I’m missing? I did enjoy seeing James Marsters in his guest role on Torchwood. I also liked the Eugene Jones episode, so I’m hoping there are even better episodes ahead.

Honor…and Hope

WARNING. Contains spoilers of The Walking Dead season 8 mid-season premiere. If you haven’t seen the episode, steer clear.

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Unless you’re seasons behind in watching and have also miraculously not seen any mention on social media of the season 8 mid-season finale a couple of months ago, you knew this was coming. There were those who held onto the thin thread of hope that it was all another elaborate plot by TWD producers to mislead viewers, but I never believed it.

I knew Carl was going to die.

I wasn’t really upset about his impending death. Carl was never one of my favorite characters, and I’ve hated that damned sheriff’s hat since about season 3. I figured it would be sad, sure, but didn’t expect to get too worked up about it.

And then I spent half the episode ugly-crying. Where did that come from?

While Carl was never my favorite character, I do understand and respect his place in the TWD universe. We now have only three of the Atlanta originals left–Rick, Carol, and Daryl. He was Rick’s prime motivation to fight, survive, and try to build something in the post-apocalyptic world. He was the vulnerable little boy everyone watched grow into a competent young man. The death of the kid they thought would make it, who matured into a true survivor, is going to rock everyone’s foundations.

My apathy toward Carl is in contrast to how I feel about Chandler Riggs. He’s a well-spoken, intelligent, charming, talented, humble guy, and I’m going to miss him. I’m sure he has great things ahead of him, and I can’t wait to see what he does next. And thank goodness, he finally got a big-boy haircut.

A few random thoughts about the episode…

Everyone on my live chat sort of fell apart in the first five minutes when Carl was having his “last normal moments” in Alexandria. He was writing goodbye notes, making blue hand prints on the porch of their house and taking Instamatic selfies with little Judith, and turning his face to the sun and smiling, knowing he’d never feel the sunlight again.

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It was kind of brutally beautiful.

Down in the tunnels, where Carl guided everyone to hide out from Negan’s goons, there were final interactions with those close to him, and we learned Siddiq was a doctor, or at least a resident, meaning Carl brought someone of immense value to the group, at the cost of his own life. Daryl indicates all the people gathered there, and reminds Carl they’re all there, safe and alive, because of him, then goes to take Judith to safety.

But that bleeping hat. I hate that hat. I’d hoped for a ceremonial hat-burning, but my hopes went unfulfilled. He gave the stupid thing to Judith. Please, please, don’t let me have to watch six seasons of little blonde Judith bopping around and dodging walkers while wearing that ridiculous hat.

Each time the episode cut back to a Carl scene, he looked worse. The makeup was amazing, and I was shocked to see him look so…diseased.

Some viewers are angry that his ultimate demise took place off screen, but I think it was appropriate. I really didn’t want to see his skull explode, a la Beth at Grady Memorial. He chose his exit, and I’m fine with it. The whole thing was devastating enough for Rick and Michonne, who had to go back in and remove his body for burial. They didn’t need to witness it.

Also, Michonne was a better apocalypse-mom than Lori ever was.

The message Carl was determined to pass on to Rick before he died was the one thing everyone needs most at this time in their apocalyptic journey. Hope. Hope that they can still build something meaningful in this new reality without completely losing themselves to the darkness. No, it’s not realistic for Rick–or anyone–to go back to his season 1 mantra, “We don’t kill the living,” but Carl wants to remind him it’s okay to show mercy sometimes. To fight for your people, but retain some humanity.

Even though at times in earlier seasons it appeared Carl was “going to the dark side,” at the end, he expressed the guilt and remorse he felt, even now, for shooting that kid who was surrendering to him and Hershel in the woods outside the prison.

So, reluctantly, we bid farewell to Carl Grimes. But another development has me wondering if perhaps there’s a new little-boy badass in the making…Henry.

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Fun note, though most dedicated fans already know…Henry is played by Macsen Lintz, the little brother of Madison Lintz, who portrayed Sophia in seasons 1 and 2.

What do you think? Did you react to Carl’s death the way you expected? How is this void in their lives going to affect your favorite characters?

All I know is…I can’t wait until next week. I hope we’ll find out what’s going on with Enid and the Oceanside gang after she accidentally shot Grandma in the mid-season finale.