The X-Files #92: Max

"I think he got the connecting flight."
ACTUAL DOCUMENTED ACCOUNT: Everyone wants the alien power source Max Fennig stole, and they'll stop planes in mid-air to get it if they have to.

REVIEW: The previous episode seemed so generic, I think I put myself on automatic in places. How else to explain why I misinterpreted certain moments? The MiBs were just erasing evidence of their guy's plastic gun, not taking possession of whatever Max Fenig was carrying. That was obviously taken by the aliens. I think I can be forgiven though. Sometimes a "part 1" will try to be too vague and mysterious, or throw too many red herrings at the audience (Sharon ISN'T Max's sister, is that a deception too many?). In Part 2, we're shocked to discover what we believed in part 1 wasn't true, in addition to getting answers to the questions that were asked there (and since this is a mytharc episode, there will be more questions asked, of course). The Apollo 11 key chain is an element that is sort of emblematic of the whole; it's unexplained in part 1, then given a pretentious explanation by Scully at the end of part 2, though Mulder bursts that balloon saying he just thought it was cool. At least he didn't mean it as a reminder that the moon landing was faked or something (that conspiracy theory makes me steam).

There is only one truly misjudged moment and that's Pendrell's death. He got shot in the cliffhanger, and at first we think he'll make it. He's too sweet and inoffensive to die so randomly, the paramedics have been called, Scully makes it sound like he can make it, just hang in there buddy, etc. Next scene, she informs Mulder Pendrell's dead. WHA?! It's so weird, you don't believe it until Wikipedia informs you the character never appeared again. A badly-orchestrated bummer. Otherwise, the episode is quite good. For a character who only appeared once three seasons ago, Max Fenig (unlike Pendrell) gets a proper farewell. We see that people cared about him and that his conspiracy theories survive him. Mulder doesn't call him a friend (that's pretty honest), but his melancholy speaks to a kinship there. And melancholy is an important element of the atmosphere here, with the excellent Joe Spano and his airplane crash investigation reaching a high level of verisimilitude (no laughing matter), and Mulder being acutely aware he just done forgot his encounter of the third kind.

At the heart of it are two similar UFO encounters in the skies. The first is recounted by Mulder and amazing close to the truth. Max is in possession of an alien power source that gives you bad face blisters (or the first of 3 pieces), and the aliens want it back. Up to now, we've had a lot of U.S. military posing as UFOs, actual alien intervention has been rare. In fact, since the abductors are usually G-Men, this may be Max's first actual alien encounter. A human UFO intercepts and shoots the alien out of the sky - they want the power source too because it was being studied at a human facility - and bring the plane down with it. The crash is harrowing, especially for something done on a TV budget; there are kids on the plane, people falling out of the open door, and plenty of half-seen drama in the darkness. When it happens again, this time with Mulder on the plane (our wise-cracking badass isn't big on learning from the past... take a bus, dude!), there is no second interceptor, but the loss is no less real for him. This time, the action isn't from a disaster movie, but from an action flick, and had me wondering where the air marshal was. In the end, the so-called Dark Man is taken along with another piece of the power source puzzle, and there's no evidence to show Skinner. Well, of course there isn't.

The Cigarette-Smoking Man is conspicuously absent in this two-parter despite the cover-up elements which are usually his purview. Are we to understand this is NOT playing out in his back yard? This isn't Syndicate business, it's military industrial complex business. In a sense, it has more to do with Max Fenig's first episode, Fallen Angel, where the military took possession of a downed UFO. There's this whole other player in the game, nowhere near as subtle as Cancerman and his ilk. It's what the United States KNOW they are doing about aliens. The right hand, if you will, to the Syndicate's left.

- A well-produced episode with a number of great moments. Too bad two interesting characters are dead as a result of this story. Now give me my Joe Spano airline investigation show. I hope that's what Millennium is about. No? It's not? Well, boo.


Toby'c said...

Apparently the moon landing was going to be faked, until someone realised they'd still need to pay for a massive rocket capable of going to the moon and as well as catering for a whole film crew for the duration of the shoot, and at that point it would probably be cheaper and easier to actually land on the moon and fake the footage there.


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