Saturday, 21 May 2011

The X Files Season One: "Conduit" - When Was The Last Time You Saw Your Sister?

It came from there!

- Thus far Agent Mulder has been to The X Files to what a thousand blank-faced leads have been to a thousand blank faced cop shows. He's a maverick with an empty motivation we neither see nor hear, the formula being x killed/took y family member, x is never caught leading Z to pursue him by solving crimes aggressively. This always bothers me because it feels like a short-cut to gravitas, the answer to the question of how to get emotional investment without having to spend any time on it, so its pleased me to see that with "Conduit", The X Files isn't just going to leave the abduction of Mulder's sister there as one of these empty motivations.

-It's a flawed episode, that has to do the character work essentially via surrogate because this is a case of the week series after all, but the intention is pleasing to see. In many ways though, I reward this episode more for its intentions then its actual content, because while it made the show's first attempt to get under the skin of its main characters, it also was the show's clumsiest episode to date.

- The mystery this week was particularly poorly drawn, feeling both lazy and incoherent, and while it had a couple of cool moments overall it didn't feel very considered and for a reset button type show that means the episode is going to feel grating, even if there are some elements that hold your interest.

- The opening teaser this episode was just awful. It saw an abduction done in the cheapest and ineffective way possible, and it just screamed the worst opening scene of a horror movie you've ever seen, where you have an unseen villain simply because you can't afford one, and featured some terrible guest star acting to say the least.

- The plot, as you'd imagine, was a mirror of Mulder's own origin story, seeing a teenage girl disappear in the middle of the night, with her younger brother being the only witness. Mulder and Scully turn up to the scene only top find local cops less the convinced by her story, as she herself claimed to be abducted by aliens thirty years before. Only Mulder believes her story, particularly since a local lake has been dubbed an alien activity hotspot.

- As always with The X Files, motions need to be gone through and we need to rule out that it was in fact not a human responsible. A process that seemed more arduous this week then in previous episodes, perhaps because there was an unfortunate and badly executed soap-opera sub-plot, where missing girl's boyfriend supposedly got someone pregnant, but it might not be missing girl. The problem being it didn't tie into the sci-fi of the show at all, and instead became a huge time-consuming anchor to "Conduit".

- I have no problem with the show trying to layer its guest characters, but frankly this didn't do that, rather filling in time for an episode that needed to pad its running length, and that's something hard to defend, mostly because its sort of cynical.

- Like I said, the guest performance of Carrie Snodgress as the victim's mother was pretty appalling. A performance you get in the worst kind of Sci-FI.

- Having said that, this is the most I've liked David Duchovny in the series thus far, perhaps because of his heightened emotional investment, Duchovny was a more sincere, focused presence, less the guy trying to prove a point and more a guy that actually wants to help someone. Mulder is a difficult character for the show to get a handle on because his mission to validate extra-terrestrial life supersedes empathy much of the time, but it was nice to see that not be the case in this episode.

- The interrogation scene between our agents and the teen girl suspect was pretty much the most stereotypical iteration of good cop, bad cop that at times it almost felt like a skit. I still liked Duchovny in it but that was pretty close to laughable.

- I do enjoy some of the re-appropriated cop cliches, for example every episode Mulder and Scully seem to go to a bar or a diner to garner information, in this caze grilling a one-eared bartender about the alien hotspot. That scene was kind of awesome.

- The stuff with Kevin, missing girl's sister was hit and miss. While seeing him decipher coded messages from the aliens was suitably creepy (and the reveal that he was secretly drawing her image.) But the conduit stuff was a again a little unspecific for my taste, and the episode simply didn't explain the how satisfactorily enough, something its been quite good for up to this point.

- The episode's plot ended in a way that I liked I suppose, even if I disliked much of the episode itself. Yet again it re-inforced the X Files core message of despair, in which the one can't be the many, and the weak get crushed by the powerful. Seeing the family with their freshly returned daughter decide to put their head in the sand as opposed to seek justice seemed like a credible and suitably downbeat ending, and Duchovny again was good in that moment.

- The final scene saw Mulder's recorded therapy session, in which he detailed his feelings in the moment where his sister was kidknapped. And that packed a bleak punch also, knowing that the aliens forced him into a sense of calm while his mind panicked.

- A mess of an episode, but it had its moments and showed The X Files does have the intention to layer and deepen its characters. An attribute that it pleased me to see, even within the skeleton of perhaps the most generic and unfocused episode of the show thus far, indicates signs of promise.

Rating: 5/10

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