Two Augusts ago I moved from Massachusetts to Baltimore, to live with my now fiancé. One of the things we decided to do right away was start watching The X-Files. I had watched it through a couple times, but mostly in the background while I drew. We finished our watch-through about a month ago, and tonight the first episode of the new season, fourteen years after its last, premiered. I bring this up to point out that we’re in the position to see this new season in the context of everything that’s come before.
In that view this episode was a complete indulgence in one of The X-Files’s worst habits, having characters react emotionally in a way that moves the plot along but is in response to something they have no knowledge of. This, not its labyrinthian plot, is the source of much of the confusion one experiences when watching the show. Usually it’s not a big deal. This episode however consisted of almost nothing but. Characters yelling at each other as if what was happening was the most important thing ever, complete trust given suddenly, and withholding of information; all of these things happen for no reason, and the effects can be downright comedic. But they’re required to move the episode to its (even still) hasty conclusion.
Like I said. Usually, not a big deal. A lot of the middling reviews I’ve seen for the new X-Files has revolved around the writing, and I rolled my eyes at that. The writing on X-Files has most often been poor. Some exceptions for sure, but it’s never been among the shows strongest offerings. (Which for the record are visuals, performance, and format which, in this episode the former two are non-existent and fine respectively, and the latter has been rendered redundant by The X-Files’s massive influence.) But having now seen the episode I’m no longer rolling my eyes, as it had nothing to offer but The X-Files’s good ol’ dopey writing. Nothing fascinating or weird, no atmosphere, just people talking about something that turned out to be nothing. Decades of history meant to feel like a huge reveal, but is actually a relatively inconsequential thread in the face of the twelve years of history the show previously established.
It might have felt necessary to the creators to catch up old viewers, and introduce new ones, with a hit of pure unfiltered X-Files. But it got lost in X-Filesing so hard that, I would think, it failed both audiences. And anyway, in a couple of years when this is slapped on the end of the previous nine seasons on Netflix none of that will mean shit anyway, and this will look completely ridiculous.
These are problems it stands to reason will not be an issue in the next four episodes, which supposedly will not concern themselves with the overarching plot of The X-Files and focus instead on the done-in-one stories. Those should’t have the pressures to buckle under this one did. I’m looking forward to them. Although I hope they lean off of the CGI.
-This show is pretty cheap looking. That’s a pretty big sin for something this high profile. They overreached. BSG looked great, but they had a very limited number of sets to create within a relatively small scope. These guys tried to create an entire city, and a lot of it looks like it was finger painted.
Although it was fairly absent from the show’s abysmal second season, Apollo and Starbuck’s romance is my least favorite part of Battlestar. It seemed forced when the show first started, and now that the characters have developed into completely different directions it seems preposterous. As such, we don’t see them rediscover their feelings for each other. We’re just told that it happens, and they’re forced to act completely out of character in order to make it work. It’s hard to watch. A few episodes before this arc I had the thought that it was very cool how that particular romantic thread slowly disappeared due to the organic growth of the characters, and how much respect for the show I’d have if it was allowed to die. This section of the third season starts to slip back into the aimlessness of the second season, but more interesting subject matter is found to explore. It seems like we might be biding our time until the third season finale, when the actual story will presumably start again. I wish I could stop talking about how bad the second season of this show is. But I’m unable to shake it and am constantly holding everything new I see up to it to see how it compares. 3
Attention everyone I kept asking what a good episode to get into Doctor Who with was: The answer was Season 4, Epsiode 10: “Midnight”. It has a bold horror vibe used to rattle the cage of a handful of really well defined characters, resulting in something like a neo-Twilight Zone. I really can’t recommend watching it enough. The rest of the episodes were okay, the arc in Episodes 8 and 9, “Silence in the Library” and “Forest of the Dead” having some worthwhile moments, but it was all a little continuity heavy for me. I usually find continuity heavy genre fiction to be dreadfully boring. The writing can almost never support the weight of the gravitas, and the inherent silliness of the proceedings makes it even harder to swallow, and Doctor Who certainly has those drawbacks, but to a lesser extent than most. Also, it’s nice to see such normal looking women in a television show. Bravo for that Doctor. “Midnight” 4, Everything else 3
Battlestar is good again, but still not as good as the first season. There’s tension again; it’s a blow every time a fighter plane gets damaged, but now it’s more “aw dang” than “holy shit”. But maybe that’s not fair. It would be almost impossible to hold on to the levels of tension, drama and even action of the first few episodes of this season. Not that it doesn’t have it’s definite flaws. A lot of the plot is propelled more by convenience than reason, and explicitly stated directly to the audience to compensate. I half expected Baltar to look directly into the camera and say “Hear that folks, there are five more Cylons” or Lucy Lawless to hold up a picture of the planet Earth with the words “Do want” written above it. One thing that never gets old for me is how deeply unloveable the character of Starbuck is. She’s selfish, stubborn, close-minded, mean and even a little dumb. And not for reasons that give you sympathy for her. She’s just kind of awful. But I actually don’t dislike Starbuck. I like her almost exclusively because of her complete lack of admirable qualities- I’m thrilled at her awfulness, every time she puts it on full display, which is like all the time. She’s so terrible it’s respectable. I mean, she is independent, tough and strong-willed, but even those positive qualities come from a selfish place. The creators may not have set out to make her that way, but they may not have minded that she ended up that way either. From what I hear the show was pretty organic- they didn’t have much planned out when they first started it (hence some of the retcons mocked above). 3.5
Hey, this show got really good again. After a soul-crushing drop in quality in season two, the beginning of Battlestar Galactica‘s third season is, I’m tempted to say, just as thrilling as the first. I’m not yet sure if it has as much going on thematically, but it’s taking me right back to the first season in that I can’t stop watching the episodes once I’ve started. There are a fair amount of minor plot quibbles; “Why would they do that”type stuff that you feel like shouldn’t bother you. But really, if it’s so bad that it’s removing you from the narrative then it’s a problem. That never happened for me in season one. I was really impressed with the end of the second season’s bold “Let’s throw it all out and make ourselves a new show” plot apocalypse, but I can’t say I’m too surprised that the status quo seems to have been regained. 4
With the exception of maybe Twin Peaks, I’ve never experienced a drop in the quality in a television show as drastic as the second season of Battlestar Galactica. The first season easily ranks among the best television I’ve ever seen in my life. But the second season get so awful, that it took me about six months to force myself to drudge through the episodes. (I believe the writer’s strike happened in between seasons 2 and 2.5, so make of that what you will.) I would have given up on it completely, but I was assured by everyone who had made it through the series that it gets better again. And indeed, by the last three episodes of the season, the show does stop being a hollow space opera and resumes using it’s plot to explore interesting ideas of race and war. The last episode in particular seems to be an intentional reset button on the part of the writing staff. As if they said “Okay, we messed this show up pretty bad. Let’s make a new one.” At the beginning of this season I was fully addicted to it, by the middle I hated it, and now I’m cautiously optimistic for the next. 3