TOURNAMENT PREDICTIONS: Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose vs Quagmire / Invocation vs The Erlenmeyer Flask

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 19th/20th

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CLYDE BRUCKMAN’S FINAL REPOSE vs QUAGMIRE

Tony: “CLYDE BRUCKMAN – probably the toughest tie this round, or one of them. Loathe as I am to lose Quagmire, Repose is my odds on favourite to win the tournament so it should conquer.”

Carl: “Well this is similar to the Jose Chung v Detour match, which ended up around 60-40 in Chung’s favour, if I recall correctly. A couple of questions come to mind:
1) Is Quagmire more popular with the fans than Detour?
2) Is Clyde Bruckman less popular with the fans than Jose Chung?

I’m not sure, but if the answer to those two questions turns out to be ‘yes’, then we could be looking at an upset here. I don’t think that’s what will happen, but I want to give Sarah a bit of hope. I expect a narrow win for CLYDE BRUCKMAN.”

Sarah: “You guys are too kind. We all know what’s going to happen here.

Paige: “I think Clyde Bruckman should pull off the win, but I’m expecting another nail-biter.”

Baz: “CLYDE BRUCKMAN’S FINAL REPOSE has so many great comic moments I can’t see it not winning (and personally I think it should). Ah poor QUAGMIRE though…it’s not quite as good (sorry @sarahlblair) and I can’t see it having as many fans as Bruckman, but it is still good enough that it deserves round two (much like Detour). It will be close though…”

INVOCATION vs THE ERLENMEYER FLASK

Tony: “FLASK – hands down the strongest finale and while Invocation is a decent one, it’s nowhere near as loved or remembered as Flask.”

Baz: “THE ERLENMEYER FLASK easily. I agree, one of the strongest finales and a great way to cap off the first season.”

Andrew: “THE ERLENMEYER FLASK is one of the best finales of the entire series. It really sets up the mythology and I think most fans find it particularly memorable for Deep Throat’s death. INVOCATION is an underrated episode, IMO, and one of the better S8 stand-alone episodes.”

Baz: “I agree. It’s not particularly memorable eighth season episode, I can’t see INVOCATION getting many votes, even though it’s a decent episode in its own right.”

Carl: “Invocation is fine, can’t see it getting anywhere near the mighty FLASK. Prediction: Flask wins by 81% to 19%.”

Paige: “FLASK in a blowout.”

Sarah: “FLASK will take the win as easily as Scully took that alien embryo.”

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

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X-FILES TOP TEN: Season Finales

Carl Sweeney returns to once again deliver a top ten viewpoint, this time on The X-Files season finales…

I will, eventually, rank something with more than ten possible options. However, a few people got in touch after reading the Top Ten Season Openers piece and requested a follow-up looking at the Season Finales, and who am I to disappoint?

Overall, I think the season-ending episodes are a stronger bunch than the season-opening ones. A low position on this list, then, isn’t necessarily a condemnation in and of itself, with the exception of…

10. The Truth (Season 9)

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This is fantastically exciting until Mulder sees his first ghost. Sadly, we’re only a few minutes in by that point. The Mount Weather sequence is promising, but that’s about as good as it gets. The kangaroo court is a poor premise that not even the great Kim Manners can breathe any life into, and it’s all undermined when the gang manage to break Mulder out incredibly easily. It picks up a bit towards the end, but not enough.

9. My Struggle 2 (Season 10)

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There’s the basis of a great episode here, but things don’t quite come together. The Tad O’Malley interludes are quite inelegant and don’t really work, for a start. Secondly, the threat feels a bit abstract. Compare this near-apocalyptic scenario with the one that ends the second season of Millennium, then tell me which one feels more compelling and real. On the plus side, I think the way that Scully takes control of things is rather captivating.

8. The End (Season 5)

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A curate’s egg of an episode. I really like the sequence where Krycek retrieves the Smoking Man from the snowy cabin, and the last few minutes are stirring. I’ve never much cared for Gibson Praise or Diana Fowley, though, which drags this one down for me. CSM speaking in chess metaphors throughout wears thin, too.

7. Biogenesis (Season 6)

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This feels like a bit of an outlier in terms of the finales, but the turn the mythology took here is one I’m quite fond of in retrospect. It’s flawed, certainly. CSM and Krycek feel a bit crowbarred into this one. Mulder’s descent into madness is executed well, though, and the final image, of Scully having found a whopping great alien ship in the sand, is excellent.

6. Talitha Cumi (Season 3)

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I probably would never have read Dostoyevsky if Carter (and Duchovny, who assisted on the story) hadn’t named the fast food restaurant in this episode after ‘The Brothers Karamazov’. For that, I’m grateful. The CSM/Jeremiah Smith interrogation is modeled after a sequence in the aforementioned book, a reminder that The X-Files was often a very literate show. I like this episode but I don’t think it’s in the same league as the earlier Season 3 mythology outings. The cliffhanger is a bit perfunctory, too, especially when compared with some of the others from the run of the series.

5. Existence (Season 8)

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This would have been a nice place to leave things. The final scene, with Mulder, Scully & baby William, is very sweet. The rest of the episode goes by at a fast-enough pace that it just about papers over any cracks in the story. Krycek’s demise is indelible. So, too, is Reyes breaking into whale song, though not perhaps in quite the same way. The series never got closer than this to ending with a satisfying degree of closure. Of course, the ill-fated Season 9 was around the corner…

4. Gethsemane (Season 4)

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‘Gethsemane’ has an impressive sweep to it, coupled with an intimate exploration of faith. It’s Chris Carter at, or close to, his most confident. Duchovny and Anderson have great material to work with her, and are reliably superb. The last scene continues to pack a real punch, no matter how many times I see it. I’m not sure the summer spent waiting for Season 5 could have felt any longer.

3. The Erlenmeyer Flask (Season 1)

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This is a great episode because, after a hit and miss first year, it broadened the canvas for the types of stories the show could tell. It’s an episode that has held up fantastically well and never fails to quicken the pulse. The highlights, for me: Mulder finding the men in tanks at the storage facility; Deep Throat’s execution; and the phone call where Mulder informs Scully that the X-Files have been closed down. Carter concludes by going back to the beginning, by reprising a scene from the pilot. He would do something similar later in the series, on a number of occasions.

2. Anasazi (Season 2)

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This is brilliant. I don’t think there’s a false note here, really. I take that back, I’ve just remembered Chris Carter’s cameo as an FBI agent. Duchovny deserves particular praise for his performance here. The first half of this episode, where our protagonist is under the influence of poisoned drinking water, offers a convincing portrayal of what Mulder would be like if he was even more paranoid. There’s a lot of other good stuff here, too, but especially terrific is the scene where Scully shoots Mulder to stop him killing Krycek. The final scene is a doozy. ‘The Blessing Way’ doesn’t necessarily follow up on the cliffhanger particularly well, but that’s another matter.

1. Requiem (Season 7)

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I’ll confess to finding much of Season 7 quite underwhelming (with some very honorable exceptions). It ends magnificently, though, with ‘Je Souhaite’ and then ‘Requiem’. It’s back to the beginning again, as Mulder and Scully return to Oregon, the scene of their first ever investigation. Some of Season 7 feels very tired, and not in a good way, but here the episode is imbued with a sense of weariness that is, paradoxically, rather wonderful. Your mileage may vary as to how successful the series was after this, but the place our protagonists are left in at the end of this episode was fitting and dramatically promising.

It’s an episode that has great material not only for Mulder and Scully, but also for some of the ensemble who had often been underserved. CSM’s death at the hands of Krycek here (Smokey’s 2nd demise, of the 3 to date) is low-key and entirely effective. Mitch Pileggi is excellent, as well. I’m not sure he was ever better than he was here. This episode was written at an uncertain time for the series, by all accounts. Carter was unsure whether the future of the series was on the small screen or the big screen (or, indeed, whether it had much of a future at all). Given the circumstances, ‘Requiem’ is a bit of a miracle.

I’m very interested to hear other opinions on the finales, so please get in touch via the comments or on Facebook if you have an alternative view.

You can find Carl on Twitter @csweeney758.

The Undeveloped Mythology

Andrew Blaker takes a peek into The X-Files mythology…

Recently undertaking a rewatch of Season 1, it was refreshing to see the early seeds of the mythology strewn throughout the early “mythology” episodes as well as the stand-alone/monster-of-the-week episodes. It’s great fun to go back from time to time and watch the pilot episode of The X-Files—to see Mulder and Scully’s first meeting, and to see their first interactions as “believer” and “skeptic,” a role that would cement the characters for years to come.

]And yet, despite their opposing views on scientific and paranormal phenomena, there’s a camaraderie immediately, when Mulder confides in Scully the truth about his sister’s abduction and his suspicions about a government conspiracy aimed at keeping him from the truth.  There’s the case, too, in Bellefleur, Oregon, where Scully first witnesses paranormal phenomena in the case of Billy Miles and Theresa Nemman—a case revisited seven years later, in another pivotal Mulder & Scully episode, “Requiem.”

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Series creator Chris Carter has made it no secret that when he started the series, he had no original concept of the mythology. There was no blueprint to what Carter hoped to accomplish through the mytharc (many fans believe there was never a blueprint to the mytharc, of course, but rather that Carter & company made up plotlines as the series progressed), and so the earlier episodes have a very free-range approach that is forsaken by the series’ third season.

Elements of the mythology that would be later revisited are introduced in a handful of Season 1 episodes, including “Deep Throat,” “Conduit,” “Eve,” “Fallen Angel,” “E.B.E.” and the first season finale, “The Erlenmeyer Flask.” Even little-praised episodes such as “Ghost in the Machine” and “Young at Heart” feature Mulder’s first informant, Deep Throat (portrayed by Jerry Hardin), and reference the government’s meddling in the arguably stand-alone cases investigated by Mulder and Scully in those episodes.

In other words, the mythology introduced in the first season and even through several Season 2 episodes is very loose, not yet integrated into what would become known as the series mythology over the remainder of the series, and the 1998 feature film Fight the Future. In the 1993-1994 season, the series was very much attempting to find its roots. There are several arguably lesser episodes in this season, but in this author’s view, the series may have benefited from avoiding the densely plotted and easily contradictable mytharc as begun more or less with Dana Scully’s abduction in the excellent “Duane Barry.”

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The Season 1 episodes are not “tied down” to anything: the viewer had never seen a series like The X-Files before, and could of course have no idea where the series would take its paranoid government conspiracy storylines. From wanting in on a sinister IT system in “Ghost in the Machine,” willing to buy the secrets of a dangerous scientist who’d discovered the ability to regenerate his arms and body organs in “Young at Heart,” and endorsing the Litchfield genetic experiments in “Eve,” the government seems to have its hand in every proverbial cookie jar, and exactly what the government is capable of is left unknown. The blending of the mytharc and monster-of-the-week episodes, never as seamless and effective than in the first two seasons, only serves to increase that classic attitude of paranoia that so typified the series and made it such a feverish hit in the mid-1990s.

Alas, the pregnancy of lead actress Gillian Anderson in early 1994 forced the series writers to find a way to excuse her from a handful of episodes in the midst of the second season. And what evolved from Scully’s abduction was at times an intensely well-crafted and thrilling mytharc, an integral part of the series, and in no way is this author suggesting that the mytharc as it developed should not have been developed. But it is always nostalgic, and an exercise in the viewer’s imagination, to consider what might have been had the series maintained the balance between the first season’s “mythology” and the stand-alone cases investigated by Mulder and Scully.

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And that’s the best part about re-watching the first two seasons of the series: imagining the innumerable possibilities the series might have explored, and the innumerable directions the mytharc might have taken.

You can follow Andrew on Twitter @andrewblaker620.