There are some stories that simply entertain, or help one pass the time. And there are stories that maybe let us laugh a little, cry a little, or both. And then there are the stories that for whatever reason, be it personal circumstance or the power of its craft, that take you and grab you in a way that is impossible to describe.
The last time I felt that way, in terms of a TV series, was the day before Thanksgiving in 1998. That was the night that "Sleeping in Light", the grand finale of the series "Babylon 5", first aired. By the end of that hour, I was in tears, stock still, held fast by a moment that I can still remember.
Last night, "This is Not Happening" was another such moment.
It's amazing, because while I have been attempting to keep myself unspoiled starting with "The Gift", this is the episode in which I was least successful towards that goal. I knew that a new agent would be introduced, I knew that Jeremiah Smith would reappear, and I knew that Mulder would be dead.
It didn't matter.
This episode worked for me on more levels than I can even begin to describe. This was the biggest mythology episode since "Requiem", and arguably the best such episode since the movie. It began with a simple statement of intent, with the near-death state of Teresa Hoese, and crept inexorably towards the inevitable.
To be honest, what truly caught me this time was the sense of dread that Skinner and Doggett brought to the table. Perhaps it is easy for us to see why Skinner would be so strongly affected...he would never get the chance to show Mulder that he had finally believed. But make no mistake...Doggett was equally, if not more, personally invested in the desire to find Mulder alive.
Doggett continues to walk the line between skepticism and the ability to cross that line into the realm of extreme possibilities. I am not sure that Doggett called in Agent Reyes for the reasons he suggested. Although his tone with Scully, when supporting the notion of a lethal UFO cult, was entirely sincere, he seemed to acknowledge that Reyes had other talents to bring to the table. Talents, that I believe, he came to respect on a very personal level.
For just a moment, I would like to applaud the natural and logical means by which Doggett's history was revealed. 1013 has always said that Doggett's past would be revealed when the time was right. I truly believe that this was the time. Sure, they could have revealed the loss of his son earlier than this, but would it have so clearly outlined Doggett's motivation, and his empathy with Scully? Of course not.
The introduction of Agent Monica Reyes also follows up on the hints that Doggett's son was the victim of a child abduction related to some kind of satanic or ritualistic cult. I see Doggett as a man who once might have believed in something more, only to wholly reject it in the face of a completely human evil.
I think that this should lay to rest any comparisons between Doggett's past and Mulder's past. The real rapport was always meant to be with Scully, and it was always meant to be solely on Doggett's part.
This brings me back to sharing in Scully's emotions during this episode. She had me from the moment that her eyes fell on Teresa Hoese's battered body, and suddenly it was as if her world had come to a complete and crushing halt. From there, it was a continual descent into hopelessness.
I can remember clearly the way Scully attempted to maintain a firm and cool exterior during her autopsy of the second abductee. And the way that she could barely restrain herself when confronting Jeremiah Smith, her eyes full of an almost manic fire. And of course, the way that her expression fell into complete despair when she saw Mulder lying dead in the woods. But that wasn't the shot that struck me and wouldn't let go.
From the moment that Scully saw the light of the UFO until that final heart-wrenching "No!", I was utterly beyond conscious reaction. You could have pulled me anyway from that screen for anything short of a major family emergency. And I was completely unable to calm down for hours afterward.
It is going to be a very, very long wait until April 1.
Some other thoughts:
- There were moments in this episode where Doggett simply hit me as incredibly moving, especially his heartfelt reaction after Scully's breakdown in the autopsy room.
- Another moment of beauty: Scully's monologue about starlight and Mulder, and the way it was later alluded to when Scully saw his spirit, just as Doggett had in "The Gift". I said it then, and I say it now...I sincerely believe that this is going to tie into elements from "Closure".
- The "Lost and Lonely, Pregnant Scully" music was just a little different this week, without the voice part, and I think that it was even more moving as a simple instrumental. It had me near tears, the way it was perfectly woven into Scully's tearful words.
- It is far too early to say much about Agent Reyes, but I think her introduction was the weakest part of the episode. CC and FS tried too hard to make sure we knew she was quirky. It almost ruined the mood for me until her "No frikkin' way!" line. Suddenly I liked her without reservation, and I loved the way that she and Scully interacted.
- The scene with Scully and the UFO cultists in the building, with the world shaking around them and the blinding light crashing down, was incredibly intense. I had no idea Jeremiah Smith (at least, this one) would be killed.
- Bravo to Judson Scott. His heydey in SF programming was almost 20 years ago, when he was a prominent actor in "Star Trek II" as Joachim, Khan's second, and then on the short-lived series, "The Pheonix". The last time I saw him in anything was on a "Next Generation" episode. His portrayal of a cult leader in this episode was perfect.
- Finally, a request. There is going to be a lot of speculation and discussion of spoilers in the weeks to come. I know that there are a lot of you who will understand the desire of some posters not to be spoiled, and I thank you in advance. On the same token, I also know that there are those of you who, intentionally or not, post spoiler information in the middle of non-spoiler threads without warning or consideration for others. All I ask is that you use the "spoiler" section if you want to discuss future episodes. The posters with integrity already do this, so no problems there. The rest of you know who you are, and I suggest you follow their better example.
Overall, this episode shines as not only the best episode of season 8, but possibly the best episode in 2 1/2 years.
I give it a 10/10.
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