The X-Files #163: The Time Is Now

"How is it decided... who lives and who dies? Maybe, individually, we are allotted only so many days of life. Maybe as a whole mankind is only allotted so many days of life."
ACTUAL DOCUMENTED ACCOUNT: Plague apocalypse. Madness claims Lara Means. Death claims Catherine Black.

REVIEW: That is one crazy season finale, but perhaps it works better as a SERIES finale (which it isn't) and regardless, may be too schizophrenic to get a ringing endorsement. To take it from the beginning, Frank commits perhaps one too many flip-flops by now telling Catherine he DOES believe in the Millennium Group's message, even as he's planted the seed of doubt in Peter Watts' mind. It really feels like they decided to do away with the whole security consultant angle (called The Trust, which is rather good) and had to get rid of them AND Frank's relationship to them. It doesn't feel natural, and the idea that the Trust man loses control of his car through some kind of magical agency is bizarre and unexplained. Similarly, the Group's speech about there being only so many days of life allotted to humanity as a whole would seem to indicate they are for culling the population and might be behind the plague, except what Watts uncovers is a Soviet super-virus that got loose and mutated, which seems to contradict that. Perhaps we'll get answers in Season 3.

In the middle of the episode is a whole act - commercial break to commercial break - dedicated to what is essentially a music video for Patti Smith's Land: Horses/Land of a Thousand Dances/La Mer(de). That is an insane song, with insane visuals to match, translating Lara Means' descent into madness with surreal and disturbing imagery. Do all initiates of Millennium's secrets risk going off the deep end? Has this become a Lovecraft story? I can't quite decide if this maverick sequence works or not. On the one hand, I have huge respect for the balls it took to go for it. On the other, once Frank arrives and the music and visuals start to wind down, it's a bit like trying to watch two channels at once and Patti's "narration" doesn't always fit what's on screen, and yet no longer sounds like soundtrack. I dunno. A bold experiment, and I'm glad they tried it, but it may test some audiences' patience, and definitely feels a little unfinished.

And then the plague strikes and Frank takes his family to his father's gross cabin in the woods. Before becoming completely catatonic, Lara left Frank one dose of the vaccine, and Catherine naturally proposes Jordan get it. We're seeing Jordan's dream become a reality. But isolated as they are, there's no reason to think any of them could be infected (in fact, I don't think the science is too exact). But Catherine is, and she walks off into the woods at the first sign of infection, saving her family from seeing her die violently. For a viewer like me, who really did think Frank's family was the very core of this series, that's a wrenching direction to go in. I didn't want less Catherine, I wanted more! And between her and Lara, we've lost BOTH adult female leads, which makes the show poorer, surely. The twin funerals of Frank's dad and the parakeet that started the two last episodes had Jordan ask questions about death, but with her mother gone, she instead innocently turns to amused giggling. Perhaps her prescient dream has made her accept it more readily, if subconsciously. But her father is as catatonic as Lara was, really. I can't see how we walk back from all this, but there's a season left, and I'm kind of sorry I have to watch a whole season of X-Files before I get to it. So whether or not I appreciate their doing away with Catherine and Lara, that's certainly a positive.

Does the plague actually occur? It must because Catherine does not return. At the same time, you'd think such a massive event would affect The X-Files, but the show has yet to confirm (give or take José Chung) that it takes place in the same universe. But those flashes of static we keep seeing... Is that Frank's powers going on the blink? Or is there an aspect of this that's a virtual reality? (Is Harsh Realm also in this shared universe?) Frank's gray hair at the end feels like one last bit of expressionism that makes the sequence feel unreal...

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - Obviously important to the greater story, I nevertheless question the need to get rid of two key characters, no matter how powerfully it's done.


Anonymous said...

I always thought Lara gave Frank *her* dose of the vaccine.

Were you saying Jordan is amused and giggling at death? Because IIRC her giggling is at Frank's new hair color.

Anonymous said...

I should have been shocked at the events of this episode, but by this point in the series "my" show was such a distant memory, it was hard to care. "Millennium" had turned into all the things I found frustrating about "X-Files"; losing the wife and Lara Means was not a huge deal.

Siskoid said...

I'm not saying she's laughing at death, just that she turns to laughing in the middle of this horror.


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