The X-Files #274: Providence

"And I looked, and, behold, a whirlwind came out of the north, a great cloud, and a fire infolding itself, and a brightness was about it."
ACTUAL DOCUMENTED ACCOUNT: Scully and friends can trust no one as they race to find her baby held by a UFO cult.

REVIEW: Oh boy. That thing with the prophecy? I don't think I can get on board. Firstly because it's so mangled in the dialog that it takes a conversation to later clarify it, and even then, I'm not sure it has. If I have this right, if Mulder AND the baby are both alive, then the aliens win and leave Earth a burning cinder. If one of them is alive, he becomes our savior, defeating the aliens. The cult wants to protect (and obviously, raise) baby William, but Comer, the FBI agent who believes the prophecy, but not in the cause, wants to kill the baby... but he also thinks Mulder is dead... so is there a component of the prophecy where if NEITHER is alive, the aliens DON'T win? The ludicrously named cult leader Josepho is clearly about his intentions, though his religion is really based on very little - surviving a skirmish in the Gulf and seeing super-soldiers (which he calls angels) run into a hail of bullets. How he got from that to thinking God is physically inside the Alberta UFO though...

So it's a big piece of nonsense, and we're so close to the end now, it's hard to believe the prophecy will actually be resolved. First because they would either have to confirm Mulder's death or kill a baby (doubtful), and possibly skip a number of years unless William can defeat the invasion AS a baby. Second, because such things are inherently difficult to pull off; the existence of the later movie and the upcoming mini-series suggest no such finality. And of course, the show covers its own ass by underlining the possibility that Comer is a "false prophet". Well, if you're not going to commit to anything, why should the audience? Let's also throw in a deus ex machina (this seems very literal taking the cult's views into account), as the UFO blasts away, killing all the cultists and leaving the baby alive just as Scully arrives. The aliens protect their own - and does it mean he's actually THEIR champion? - or else these particular UFOs ARE God protecting the so-called miracle baby. There seems to be an attempt to create a sort of Unified Field Theory that connects everything - UFOs, paranormal, super-soldiers, Scully's Catholicism - before we get to the end. I doubt they can pull it off.

Meanwhile, Scully is downright strident in her mistrust of anyone but the cool kids, which for now doesn't include Skinner. While I understand her Mamma Bear attitude - there's no way an accomplished agent is going to sit by and let a task force of unknowns find the baby for her - it doesn't make her the most sympathetic of leads. Doggett spends most of his time in a coma, which is unfortunate, though at least the divine theme is used in his recovery, brought back to consciousness by a voice (or Voice) now one can explain. This two-parter also adds Alan Dale to the supporting case as a character credited as the Toothpick Man (I didn't notice any toothpicks), essentially the Cigarette Smoking Man of the super-soldier set, giving Kersh orders the way the CSM used to ride Skinner. Well, okay, but haven't we been down this road before?

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - All this miracle child prophecy stuff feels very important, but also confused. This viewer is losing hope of a successful resolution by season's end.


Jeremy Patrick said...

I've watched the X-Files all the way through, read all your recaps, and am re-watching the show, and I still feel like I'd need a Ph.D. in X-Files-ology or one of those crazy conspiracy-theorist walls with strings and push-pins to understand what the hell the mytharc of this show is supposed to be. I don't think it's spoilery to say that, as far as I'm concerned, it's a jumbled mish-mash of plot elements that are never satisfactorily resolved, and that are often either self-contradictory or completely ridiculous. But I say this as a fan of the X-Files. I think the show is an example of TV's difficult transition from purely self-contained episode structure to an attempt to mix self-contained episodes with long form storytelling, and that the transition was (and still isn't) easy. Alias is another example of a show where the mytharc (Rimbaldi or whatever) just completely falls apart into nonsense. Quality long-form storytelling requires careful planning and forethought, which TV show writing rooms just don't have (they'll roughly break down a season, but rarely the whole life of a series. They think they can just make it all up as they go along and viewers won't notice, but we do! (classic well-planned counter-example: Babylon 5). Anyway, I say all this because I admire your quixotic attempts to make it all fit together, even as I sit here smugly bemused by it too!

Siskoid said...

Even at this pace, I probably can't see it when something today contradicts something else from 200 days ago. That's really more of a question for dedicated X-fans and nitpickers' guild members.

My two counter examples to what you're describing are B5 (which eventually didn't have a writer's room, but still structurally fell apart at times because JMS didn't know if he was cancelled or not) and at the other end of the scale, Battlestar Galactica, which featured some masterful improvisation from Ron Moore and his writers, making it up as they went along, but finding ways to connect back and not contradict themselves (regardless of what you think of the results).

But neither of these lasted 9+ years.


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