Friday, October 06, 2006

130. Halloween Roundup (1):
A Kiss Before Dying

As I believe I've mentioned before, my son and I are dutifully watching every X-Files episode in order. The implicit promise is two-fold: to satisfy the compleatist's urge and to free us from ever having to watch the show again. I can remember watching M*A*S*H reruns until they took on the consistency of a thin gruel, with small bits of cardboard thrown in for bite. I am on the verge of this with Seinfeld as well; and I will be sorry when the day finally comes that I cannot bear to watch any episode one more time. (This point of no rerun has occurred with quite a few already, and I fear for the rest.)

I did not want that to happen with The X-Files, in part because it already did, and while the show was on its first run. As David Duchovny went on to bat around .225 in movies--pretty good if you're swattin' at the ol' horsehide, but in movies a hit for every three or more strikeouts is a sorry sight--and slipped away from the series (that image of him in the opening credits fading away like the Twilight Zone clock is as good a jab at his departure as he deserves), I,too, began to grow weary of The X-Files. But the mood of the show remained original, and the subject matter was just ooky enough to keep me jittered; so I hung on. Besides, Gillian Anderson was able to make it work on a regular basis, carrying herself with all the cool charm of a Joseph Singer Sargent m'lady in The House of Mirth (2000)--and slightly surreal as a trailer-trash chick in The Mighty (1998)--while continuing to slip through the dark passages to which Mulder led her. And as Dana Scully, with all those classic closeups they gave her, Anderson never lost her old-time Hollywood cool, even when she was having a decidedly unwilled religious experience.

In short, like Scully the show had legs (sorry), and we've been good about looking (at the episodes, that is), so it is fitting that we began the Halloween Roundup with some X-Files episodes (from season 7)--and with one in particular, "Millennium," which (just like in The Beverly Hillbillies and Petticoat Junction) revealed that Mulder and Scully lived in the same TV universe as Frank Black (three cheers for Lance Henrickson) from Chris Carter's other creepfest (creepier, actually) Millennium, which ran for 67 episodes, according to the IMDb. And every one was more deeply weird than the previous. I remember it vaguely, even though it ran only a half-decade ago, which is fitting, because the show itself moved like a thick-muscled, jagged-toothed sea creature in a dream's murky water, slippery and muffled, its bite lethal but its direction occult (in every way).

Belatedly, Carter tried to wrap up the series with a New-Year's-Eve X-Files episode. And it works, to some degree, if only because of the way Henrickson glides from one awful decision to the next, with his trademark deadpan (accent on the first syllable) and all-but-unreadable cool. He appears in the episode like the promise of evil confronted that the X-Files always seemed to make, but which it almost never fully kept. However, with Frank Black as the only link to a man--a "necromancer"--resurrecting the corpses of ex-Millennium Group agents to form a homebrewed Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Mulder and Scully are forced to tag along, watching someone who plunges headfirst into the brine work with clean precision, as capable of being thrown off-guard as Big Blue. Even the reckless Mulder must stand within a protective circle of salt, wounded and in the dark, as Black storms in to the rescue.

The episode ends with Black's reunion with his young daughter (a little something for the Millennium fans) while Scully and Mulder kiss--and I had always thought for the first time; but earlier, in the finale of a two-parter, there they went, and with a remarkable combination of relief, fear, and passion. Afterwards, the two seem relieved that the kiss was over--but also that it happened. Sweet and long overdue.

Two episodes later, though, they conflate New Year's Eve and Halloween, and the zombie Horsemen seem much more impending than romance. Again, a good start for this year's Roundup, in which for thirty days or so love and death prove what strange bedfellows they make.

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