The X-Files #188: Exegesis

"Who's gonna see a different future?"
ACTUAL DOCUMENTED ACCOUNT: Frank and Emma race to get to the last remaining remote viewers before the Millennium Group assassinates them.

REVIEW: Not gonna lie, I was often irritated by this episode, but I found a way to forgive it. Still, let's start with the caveats. First and foremost, I think there's a real breakdown in quality on the technical level that shouldn't go unmentioned. Visually, the show is doing more and better action, granted, but soft-focus shots (video-assisted zooms?) and video fast motion are frequent and look terrible. The featured extras are universally bad; one practically looks into camera. The scripts are also far less lyrical than they used to be (give or take the bookends) and I found myself missing some of the more florid language, and rolling my eyes at the old TV standards. Agent Hollis in particular is often just an exposition machine, asking dumb questions or making plain what was already obvious from the pictures. That's when she's not involved in clunky "You don't look like FBI" (when really, come on, she does) exchanges. And then there's the attempt to bring the show closer to the X-Files instead of letting it breathe in its own world. Frank back at the FBI with a female partner is the obvious thing, though his relationship to Lara Means in Season 2 was of the same breed. But bookending the episode with literate narration? That's also right out of the X-Files playbook.

That all said, I think there's great potential in turning the Millennium Group into the show's villains - at least, the Roosters, as the Owls would be unlikely to jump start the apocalypse - and though Season 2's focus seemed to have been jettisoned initially, the idea of keeping certain special children safe is really from that season (which I'll get back to in due course). Of course, the FBI don't know this and are still using the Group as they did in Season 1, as consultants, so it's an enemy in their midst. The best scene in the episode is surely Peter Watts' approach of Frank at his daughter's school, where Watts can't place a word because Frank won't have it. Powerful and truthful, a clear threat to the family, and I love that Jordan sides with her dad. She's an empathic child, so we know Watts was actually up to no good even before he got in a car with the man we eventually see trying to kill Frank.

As for the plot itself, the sisters are revealed to be in vitro experiments, trying to reproduce a "remote viewer" successfully used by the CIA during the Cold War. Too X-Files? A little. But psychic phenomena is already a part of Frank's world, his own abilities akin to remote viewing, though nowhere near as powerful or focused. Millennium wants to kill these psychics, not because they can see the Group's agenda, but because they can imagine a better future where the world doesn't end. And that's where the episode (and hopefully, the season) becomes about something I can get behind: hope. The end of the old order is near, but the new order need not be a negative. And the special children from this season and the last, prophets and geniuses alike, could imagine a better world and put it into effect. That's Frank's takeaway - and there's no doubt in my mind Jordan is one of these - and it gives him license to fight Millennium. It's the generational struggle, seeing the world with cynical old eyes vs. idealistic new ones, something I'm interested in seeing explored through other episodes.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium
- The new mission statement and the Black-Watts dynamic more or less save an episode with technical problems and a co-lead that's failing to measure up as a character.

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