TOURNAMENT PREDICTIONS: Milagro vs Lazarus / The Gift vs The Beginning

The X-Cast blog team are going to share their daily predictions about the Episode Tournament fixtures coming up, talking about who they think will win (not crucially who *should* win – that’s up to you!).

January 13th/14th

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MILAGRO vs LAZARUS

Tony: “MILAGRO – fans love it, plus it’s better than Lazarus, even if Lazarus isn’t half as bad as you remember.”

Carl: “Milagro has a lot of fans, whereas I imagine most people are indifferent about Lazarus. MILAGRO win.”

Andrew: “MILAGRO will win, as it should. But Lazarus is FAR from being the worst episode. It’s a pretty solid stand-alone with an intriguing story. Good S1 entry.”

Jonathan: “Love Milagro. It’s an episode I watch again and again.”

Sarah: “I think MILAGRO will go through to the next round. It has definitely grown on me. I think it’s certainly more memorable than Lazarus.”

Paige: “Mi-la-gro!!!!! So creative and putting a different spin on everything.”

Baz: “MILAGRO is the better of the two and will likely win over LAZARUS.”

THE GIFT vs THE BEGINNING

Tony: “THE BEGINNING – does anyone like The Gift? Though to be fair I think The Beginning would flounder under tougher competition.”

Carl: “I like The Gift, it’s certainly better than The Beginning, which is middling at best. I think THE BEGINNING will win though.”

Paige: “I like The Gift better as well. But prediction-wise, I expect it to be just The Beginning.”

Baz: “The GIFT is the better episode and a good story for both Mulder and Doggett, but I think THE BEGINNING will win as it rides off the movie and is a good if not great Mulder and Scully episode. I think s8 and s9 episodes have to be on top form to win over a lot of people on this tournament, which s a shame as s8 has a lot of great stuff.”

Make sure you’re following our tournament with the hashtag #TheXFilesEpisodeTournament on Twitter.

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TOURNAMENT PREDICTIONS: The Post-Modern Prometheus vs Redux / Fallen Angel vs Scary Monsters

The X-Cast blog team are going to share their daily predictions about the Episode Tournament fixtures coming up, talking about who they think will win (not crucially who *should* win – that’s up to you!).

January 12th/13th

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THE POST-MODERN PROMETHEUS vs REDUX

Tony: “UPMP – on any other day, Redux might win. Against PMP? No chance. It’s a steam roller few will survive.

Carl: “Yep, I fully agree – PMP will go through.”

Sarah: “Redux is a fantastic episode, but PMP is just too unique to lose. It’s going far.”

Paige: “I do agree that PMP will seize the day, tough first-round exit for Redux, but that’s how I expect it to go down unless the Ryan Reynolds’ contingent decides to get behind it.”

Baz: “I think THE POST-MODERN PROMETHEUS will win over REDUX just because of how unique and funny it is. REDUX II is the better of the two as REDUX contains one too many voice overs to be totally engaging.”

FALLEN ANGEL vs SCARY MONSTERS

Tony: “FALLEN ANGEL – first Max Fenig appearance & while not a great episode by any means, much more memorable than Scary Monsters.”

Baz: “That’s an easy one. FALLEN ANGEL is a good quasi-mythology alien story and one of the stronger episodes of season nine. It has the great Max Fenig and is a fast paced thriller with some great twists. SCARY MONSTERS is not one of the best season 9 episodes, concerned with how great the missing Mulder (and Scully are) rather than putting Doggett and Reyes forward. I can’t see this doing well.”

Carl: “There’s a couple of things I find interesting about Scary Monsters: the (playfully?) aggressive stance it takes with the fandom via the Leyla Harrison character, and the emphasis on how an X-Files investigation led by the unimaginative Doggett has to be resolved in a different way compared to one where Mulder’s intuition will crack the case. Neither of these things will make a difference here though, easy win for FALLEN ANGEL.”

Sarah: “FALLEN ANGEL. Boom. Done. Next?”

Make sure you’re following our tournament with the hashtag #TheXFilesEpisodeTournament on Twitter.

TOURNAMENT PREDICTIONS: Unusual Suspects vs Terms of Endearment / Hell Money vs Unruhe

The X-Cast blog team are going to share their daily predictions about the Episode Tournament fixtures coming up, talking about who they think will win (not crucially who *should* win – that’s up to you!).

January 11th/12th

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UNUSUAL SUSPECTS vs TERMS OF ENDEARMENT

Tony: “UNUSUAL SUSPECTS – confident this Lone Gunmen-centric should beat an episode with only Bruce Campbell as it’s memorable saving grace.”

Carl: “Mulder infamously forgets he’s a psychologist in Terms of Endearment, which is a black mark against it in my book. UNUSUAL SUSPECTS for the win.”

Paige: “I don’t know, Bruce Campbell is a pretty big saving grace. Carl’s point is brilliant. I’ll go with Terms of Endearment, just because I remember the grunts during original run for a non-Mulder and Scully show. And for Bruce Campbell.”

Sarah: “UNUSUAL SUSPECTS will go through to the next round. Do I even need a reason why? It’s obvious.”

Baz: “UNUSUAL SUSPECTS is a great prequel / 100th episode and a cool Lone Gunmen story. It will be another strong win. I honestly can’t remember TERMS OF ENDEARMENT either.”

HELL MONEY vs UNRUHE

Tony: “UNRUHE – though I don’t think it’ll survive round 2 it’s underrated & should beat the limp organ swopping.”

Sarah: “UNRUHE is massively underrated. It’s a solid episode from arguably the best season of the entire series. Gerry Schnauz is a terrifying villain. It’ll take out Hell Money in a landslide.”

Carl: “I’m expecting UNRUHE to win too. I think it could do well in the tournament actually, given a kind draw.”

Andrew: “UNRUHE is a very solid episode, while Hell Money is a pretty weak episode. Scary premise, but weak in execution, and not really n X-File. UNRUHE has a terrifying villain and the icepick lobotomy angle is particularly nasty.”

Paige: “I gotta go with Unruhe as well. It’s a very good episode. Hell Money is just the ep that comes before Jose Chung.”

Baz: “UNRUHE is a great, underrated episode, with an interesting premise and great atmospheric moments. It will easily beat the lacklustre HELL MONEY.”

Make sure you’re following our tournament with the hashtag #TheXFilesEpisodeTournament on Twitter.

TOURNAMENT PREDICTIONS: SR-819 vs The Jersey Devil / Closure vs Redux II

The X-Cast blog team are going to share their daily predictions about the Episode Tournament fixtures coming up, talking about who they think will win (not crucially who *should* win – that’s up to you!).

January 10th/11th

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SR-819 vs THE JERSEY DEVIL

Tony: “SR-819 – the former is not as much remembered probably fandom than the latter, but I reckon this Skinner-centric might scrape it.”

Carl: “I agree, I don’t think The Jersey Devil is well-liked at all, and the Skinner fans will turn out in force to give the win to SR-819.”

Sarah: “SR-819 is going to win. This behind the scenes glimpse into Skinner’s Unofficial Channels is worth its weight in gold compared to JD. SR-819 could be its own series.”

Andrew: “SR-819 is the stronger episode, and I like the fact it’s Skinner-centric.”

Baz: “Agree with all of the above SR-819 to win; it is a strong Skinner-centric episode with a nice Krycek twist (if a little obvious). My only doubt is that it may not be as well remembered as JERSEY DEVIL. I admit, I forgot a lot about SR-819 when I re-watched it last year. Is JERSEY DEVIL that well regarded though? It’s not bad… it’s just not very good either.”

CLOSURE vs REDUX II

Tony: “REDUX II – it’s a well-known mythology piece with lots of memorable moments, though Closure is well loved for the Samantha stuff. A close call!”

Andrew: “REDUX II is a significant milestone episode for both M & S and will pull out a win. Closure is interesting but much weaker.”

Carl: “I’m not looking forward to choosing which one to vote for here, I really appreciate them both. I think REDUX II will win though, because not everybody liked the resolution to the Samantha storyline that Closure provided.”

Sarah: “They’re both strong episodes in their own right. I’d honestly be sad if this one isn’t a close contest. I think REDUX II will pull away with the win if only because it holds one of the most tense moments in the series, if not all of television history. Seriously, the last 5 minutes of that episode steal my breath every single time I watch it.”

Baz: “Ha I hate CLOSURE, despite a wonderful performance by David Duchovny. It’s a terrible resolution to Samantha’s storyline and I think a lot of people agree. REDUX II was a great ending to the trilogy and set up a very strong fifth season. I think this will win, though not necessarily by a landslide…”

Make sure you’re following our tournament with the hashtag #TheXFilesEpisodeTournament on Twitter.

REVIEW – The X-Files: Secret Agendas – ‘All Choked Up’

Tony Black looks at the thirteenth story in The X-Files: Secret Agendas anthology, ‘All Choked Up’…

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Written by Lois H. Gresh

Edited by Jonathan Maberry

Sometimes you get an X-Files story that just doesn’t feel like The X-Files, and Secret Agendas serves one up here in ‘All Choked Up’ from Lois H. Gresh. There’s just something as a bit too pulpy and on the nose about Gresh’s story that feels off in terms of Chris Carter’s series, and while it’s nice to see Scully once again get the focus (indeed in first person as well), her inner monologue didn’t always sound like you’d imagine Scully would; moreover, certain interactions between our leads with characters such as Skinner (who feels too wily & playful) and the Cigarette Smoking Man (who comes across too cartoonish) just don’t track. Dare I say it, the whole story feels very much like an X-File written by someone who hasn’t seen much of The X-Files.

Whether or not that’s true, it’s hard to judge, and I wouldn’t serve to presume. Gresh writes straight up, pulls no punches, and there’s nothing especially wrong with her prose, it’s her story that for me was full of problems. For example, Mulder & Scully talk throughout about the ‘Syndicate’ as if it’s common knowledge as a name like they’re talking about ‘SPECTRE’, say – they just didn’t do that in the show, it wasn’t a reference point. Also, a sub-basement for secret, clandestine experiments… right under FBI headquarters? Accessible only by secret codes? Really? Even for this show, that’s a silly stretch. It also leads to a really cartoonish fight with the Smoking Man which is entirely out of a different

It also leads to a really cartoonish fight with the Smoking Man which is entirely out of a different series and didn’t sit well at all. What’s a shame is that the central mystery–involving a piece of AI technology which may be crushing people inside clothing they wear–is quite clever and unique, but it’s dealt with in a jarring manner. Ironically, it doesn’t have enough time to breathe.

‘All Choked Up’ is probably my least favorite tale in Secret Agendas because it simply doesn’t feel personal and befitting to Mulder and Scully, that it could have been ported into various different shows and tweaked a slightly different way. It lacks that focus, that tonal accuracy, the character voices aren’t always there, Scully’s POV doesn’t seem to have much point, and there are one or two plot holes that stood out (why, Skinner, did you care so much about Curlie?). While I admire the attempt, this one falls short.

Rating: 4/10

You can follow Tony on Twitter @Mr_AJ_Black.

TOURNAMENT PREDICTIONS: Theef vs Shapes / The Blessing Way vs Syzygy

The X-Cast blog team are going to share their daily predictions about the Episode Tournament fixtures coming up, talking about who they think will win (not crucially who *should* win – that’s up to you!).

January 6th/7th

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THEEF vs SHAPES

Tony: “SHAPES – hard one this as they’re both quite duff. Who remembers Theef though?”

Carl: “I agree that a lot of people won’t remember Theef, but it’s a bit undervalued in my view. I think the result here depends on the extent to which people actively dislike Shapes or not. Could be a narrow win for THEEF.”

Andrew: “THEEF is a great episode, very much underrated! The story is solid, and it’s just as creepy as some of what we see in Home. I’d include THEEF, absolutely, in a Top 20 “Creepiest Episodes” list.”

Sarah: “I value Shapes for its attempt to add a new spin to the Werewolf lore, but that’s about it. THEEF surprised me on my rewatch before season 10. It’s a strong episode and I think it’ll pull off the win.”

Baz: “I agree that a lot of people won’t remember THEEF (I barely do), but it is a stronger episode than SHAPES and if you do remember it, it has some great horror. SHAPES is known for being naff; I think it might win though purely because fans will remember watching it. Though I don’t think by a large mile.”

THE BLESSING WAY vs SYZYGY

Tony: “BLESSING WAY – much as Syzygy has loads going for it & should qualify, Blessing Way is well known & I can see it scraping a victory.”

Sarah: “There’s a lot that’s memorable about SYZYGY but I think TBW will win out by sheer pronounceability.”

Baz: “THE BLESSING WAY absolutely. It’s not as strong as Anasazi or Paper Clip, but it comes at the height of the show, opening season three and sitting within one of the best multi-episode myth arc stories the show ever did. SYZYGY is good but it won’t come close to winning.”

Carl: “I also think THE BLESSING WAY will win. It, justly, gets more criticism than the episodes either side of it, but there’s a lot to like. Mulder & Scully are at each other’s throats during Syzygy – I think some will vote against it for that reason.”

Andrew: “While Paper Clip ranks in my top 20, the majority of The Blessing Way was just brimming with the Navajo-spiritual stuff that, IMO, dragged down the episode. It got much better in the second half, but I’m not a fan of the whole Mulder-floating-on-pine-trees-in-the-sky imagery. so I’ll vote for SYZYGY, which I think deserves more praise than it gets.”

Make sure you’re following our tournament with the hashtag #TheXFilesEpisodeTournament on Twitter.

ROUNDTABLE DISCUSSION: How should Mulder & Scully’s story end?

For our next roundtable chat based on a key X-Files question…

How should Mulder & Scully’s story end?

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TONY: “So thinking about this, and haters gonna hate me for this, but I don’t think M&S should get a happy ending. Happy endings aren’t what The X-Files is. I don’t mean they should go out in a desperately miserable fashion, or die, but I think they shouldn’t end up together as a family unit, and their fate be left ambiguous. I’d be happy with one of them disappearing again, this time for good, if it served a greater story purpose. Or even the old trope of the work never being over, of the show conclusively ending with them still in the FBI, still investigating the paranormal, still chasing The Truth. That’s far more fitting than the 2.4 William most shippers undoubtedly would want from this question, and truer to the nature of the show.”

PAIGE: “Toughie! I’m not a shipper, but I do think there’s no one in the world for either of them than each other. So if they don’t wind up together, they both wind up alone. They’ve been through so much, I would kind of like them on rocking chairs at the end. And I’m not a believer in the happy ending, I just think they have worked their way there. Probably bantering over William’s mid-life crisis — both taking disparate sides, of course.”

SARAH: “After they save the world from alien invasion they’ll both end up teaching at Quantico. Mulder will head up the students learning how to profile human/alien hybrids. Scully will be the world’s foremost expert on alien autopsies, and not that kind you buy from an infomercial for $19.99 + S&H. At the end of the day, they’ll go home for a beer and wave to Skinner across the street as he takes out his trash. He’s a bestselling author of FBI thrillers that are mostly true, but so wild they seem fictitious. M&S will ask him how his latest novel is going, then invite him over for burgers on Saturday.”

CARL: “Scully ditches Mulder at the aisle, realising her future lies with a dashing English blog contributor instead… In all seriousness, I’m not certain about this one. I hear what Tony’s saying about them not ending up as a typical family unit, and I’m drawn to that argument. On the other hand, I do think the final scene of ‘Existence’ was very effective, so something like that could work. I agree that the trope of never being done with the work might make the most sense as an ending. There are two things I know I want for a conclusion to Mulder & Scully’s story:
1. Whatever the ending is, it should have been designed as an ending, not a cliffhanger. It would be a huge shame if the last scene of ‘My Struggle II’ is never followed up on.
2. It would be appropriate for Chris Carter to bring the Duchovny & Anderson era to a close as he sees fit. Whether he would deliver something that the fanbase would be pleased with is another matter, but I’m not bothered about that really.”

ANDREW: “‘I Want to Believe.’ That’s my ending. Since CC has said he can’t actually imagine writing an end to the series, better ‘I Want to Believe’ than ‘How Many Times Can I Say Alien DNA with a Straight face?”

SARAH: “I was perfectly satisfied with the boat ending.”

What do you think? Do you agree? Disagree? Let us know your choices in the comments below or on social media!

TOURNAMENT PREDICTIONS: Medusa vs Firewalker / Space vs Die Hand Die Verletzt

The X-Cast blog team are going to share their daily predictions about the Episode Tournament fixtures coming up, talking about who they think will win (not crucially who *should* win – that’s up to you!).

January 6th/7th

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MEDUSA vs FIREWALKER

Tony: “MEDUSA – neither will probably get out of round two, but I’ll plumb for this, though it could go either way.”

Carl: “I don’t think there’ll be much enthusiasm for either of these. I think FIREWALKER will take the win, in all likelihood.”

Sarah: “FIREWALKER because of Josh–I mean, um… Bradley Whitford.”

Andrew: “I actually really like MEDUSA. The monster-of-the-week angle is pretty weak, but seeing Scully pitted against that angry subway CEO is entertaining. In my opinion, very much underrated. Firewalker is just Ice redone in a hot climate.”

SPACE vs DIE HAND DIE VERLETZT

Tony: “DIE HAND DIE VERLETZT – come on, you’d have to be a right plonker to vote for Space!”

Carl: “Space is good for a few unintentional laughs, but that won’t do it much good here. DIE HAND DIE VERLETZT.”

Sarah: “DIE HAND DIE VERLETZT is going to take this one. That snake still gives me nightmares.”

Make sure you’re following our tournament with the hashtag #TheXFilesEpisodeTournament on Twitter.

INTERVIEW: Ryan Cady on The X-Files: Secret Agendas – ‘Kanashibari’

A short interview with author Ryan Cady on his contribution to The X-Files: Secret Agendas anthology, out now from IDW Publishing…

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THE X-CAST: How did you come to be involved with Secret Agendas?

RYAN CADY: I’d known Jonathan Maberry through social media and the Horror Writer’s Association, and one day on the HWA Facebook page he put out an open call for X-Files pitches for the anthology – I guess they had a couple slots left. I pitched him “Kanashibari” off the bat and a month or so later he let me know I was in! I remember being stuck at a red light when I got the email and pulling over to read it, I was so excited.

T-XC: Have you always been a fan of The X-Files?

RC: Definitely. My grandmother and I were the only people in my house growing up who liked horror, so I have a lot of distinct memories of watching it with her. We were always big “Monster of the Week” people, and I think a lot of those episodes informed my approach to horror as a genre over the years.

TX-C: What made you choose the Kanashibari folk myth for your story?

RC: I used to experience sleep paralysis pretty regularly, and back in college I’d done a little reading on the kanashibari myth, and I’d always wanted to tell some kind of story with it, but I’d never really gotten around to putting one to paper. A couple years ago I was watching some Alien Abduction documentary thing, and they mentioned offhand that sleep paralysis could account for the entire phenomenon, and I was just so hooked on that explanation.

It really struck me as something Scully could latch onto and Mulder could look down his nose at, so when Jonathan called for pitches, those ideas just sort of came together.

TX-C: You tap into the heat of Los Angeles from Scully’s less than impressed perspective, and its Japanese community – do you feel these are areas that haven’t much been explored in The X-Files?

RC: I think L.A. in general, doesn’t get a lot of play in horror. It’s newer, it’s bright and sunny – I get it, that’s a tough setting for trying to be spooky. I liked the idea of Scully sort of rolling her eyes at the place, like, what can happen here that’s worse than all the crazy stuff I’ve seen so far?

And community-wise, X-Files was always really good about exploring these little pockets of America, and I’ve always felt like the really diverse and varied communities in Southern California are ripe with stories – and not just horror stuff, even though that’s our cup of tea.

TX-C: There’s a nice ambiguity as to whether either Mulder or Scully’s theories about what’s happening are right – was that intentional throughout?

RC: Absolutely. At the end of the day, two people working in close proximity like that are going to influence each other a lot, as we see in the show, and so I really wanted to dig into the doubt that Mulder’s “need to believe” would bring to a skeptic like Scully.

And as much as I think we all love Mulder, there’s a perverse kind of comfort in proving him wrong, proving that we’re safe and the monster isn’t real.

Although the ending of this story does leave a little room for monsters.

TX-C: Do you believe in the paranormal?

RC: You know, I’m not sure. I’m certainly something of a skeptic, but I was raised pretty religious, and I haven’t quite let go of some of my philosophical leanings there. The world is so big and so old and so strange, I think there might be some things lurking out there that just defy explanation.

Many thanks to Ryan for his time. You can follow him on Twitter @rycady.

Questions by Tony Black, who you can follow @Mr_AJ_Black.

TOURNAMENT PREDICTIONS: Paper Clip vs all things / Existence vs Chinga

The X-Cast blog team are going to share their daily predictions about the Episode Tournament fixtures coming up, talking about who they think will win (not crucially who *should* win – that’s up to you!).

January 5th/6th

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PAPER CLIP vs all things

Tony: “ALL THINGS – because of the Scully-ness & even though it’s not a bad episode, it shouldn’t beat Paper Clip, but I reckon it might.”

Carl: “I think I agree. It’d be a travesty, but ALL THINGS might win. Wouldn’t completely rule out a victory for Paper Clip, but Anderson’s directorial effort is very popular among the shipper community.”

Paige: “Looking at the results for Je Souhaite/Requiem makes this one even harder. I’m gonna go the reverse and expect Paper Clip but not rule out All Things. Paper Clip’s a very strong ep and All Things has its problems.”

Carl: “What’s interesting is, for all the stick they get off people, the mythology episodes are more than holding their own in this tournament.”

Paige: “And also we always think Vince Gilligan eps are sacrosanct, but it’s not really close. Wonder if the same will hold true for Gillian’s ep. Don’t raise the firing squad, but that ep is deeply flawed to me.”

Sarah: “I’m going with PAPER CLIP for the win, if only for the sole reason that it has the best line in the entire series.”

EXISTENCE vs CHINGA

Tony: “EXISTENCE – too legendary an episode to lose but Chinga would have a shout with weaker competition.”

Carl: “Not sure which way the vote will go, so I’ll go with you two and say EXISTENCE. I know that teenage Carl would be voting for Chinga, for the bath scene.”

Paige: “Sorry Stephen King, unless your fan groups stack the voting, Existence for the win.”

Sarah: “I’m going to be contradictory and go with CHINGA for this round. I remember being less than impressed with EXISTENCE, but I only saw it the one time it originally aired.

Make sure you’re following our tournament with the hashtag #TheXFilesEpisodeTournament on Twitter.