Skip to main content

We predict the future, and the best way to predict the future is to invent it.

The X-Files
3.1: The Blessing Way

Chris Carter was probably right not to approach Ansazi as he meant to continue the story – always assuming he thought ahead at all – instead opting for a complete change of pace for The Blessing Way, shifting down a gear into a more reflective season opener. That doesn’t necessarily excuse him some of the episode’s more glaring issues, however, including a recourse to cod-Native American philosophising that teeters on the brink of patronising/glib and a resolution to the second season cliffhanger that may be explicable but not sufficiently so that it isn’t still commonly cited in a “Things that don’t make sense” context.

Scully: Who are you?
Well-Manicured Man: I'm a member of a kind of consortium. We represent certain global interests.

The answer there lies in the visual evidence of Mulder being found beneath some rocks near a hybrid body, and the flashback during his vision quest showing gassed hybrids attempting to escaped the boxcar from the rear; it isn’t answered explicitly, but there’s enough information to discern there was a way for Mulder to ex machina. Albeit, most probably not on first viewing.

My reading of the end of Anasazi was that CSM ordered the boxcar’s torching with the thought in mind that Mulder might still be in there. He doesn’t appear to be voicing that here, demanding Mulder and “those files”. Later, he is on a back foot, reporting the destruction of the files and Mulder to the Elders when he knows no such thing. Whatever the specifics of his intent regarding Fox, it is very clear his superiors want our hero dead, so it is likely both CSM and Krychek were acting towards this goal in Anasazi, and Krychek certainly is when he kills Melissa in this episode (while this is used to support the “everyone is expendable” idea Carter is so fond of, it might have carried more clout in both her and Bill Mulder’s cases if they’d had a stronger prior presence beyond a couple of episodes).

The Blessing Way is notable for the welcome arrival of Baron Munchausen himself, John Neville’s Well-Manicured Man. He distinguishes himself as a key member of this ruthless globalist consortium by appearing to offer a more moderate position, relatively. Although, his warnings to Scully are couched in the de rigueur fall back for keeping Mulder and Scully alive (“… your death will draw unnecessary attention to our group”). It’s one, as I have said previously, I find singularly unconvincing.

Nevertheless, this reframing of the mythology arc threat, so making CSM answerable in his own right comes at a very necessary and crucial point. Continuing the way things were would have been untenable, and the episode is indulging its fair share of standard X-tropes anyway (making Skinner seem suspicious – in part thanks to the Well-Manicured Man’s warning – and putting Scully on a mandatory leave of absence). There is a sense of genuine danger this time, at least, by virtue of knowing the different positions held within the same faction.

Albert: This place. You carry it with you. It is inside of you. It is the origin place.

Much of The Blessing Way, though, relates to Mulder at death’s door, undertaking a spiritual journey. It’s the kind of thing that rarely brings out the best in Carter, who just loves a wallow in the slightly facile embrace of the cosmic. Albert nurses the conceit that Mulder’s spirit “did not want to be healed. That it wished to join the spirit of his own father who had died and did not want to return to the world of living”. Cue a shot of Mulder beneath a bed of branches floating in the stars, with all the conviction of Elon Musk’s car.

If Carter had anything distinctive to offer with this, I’d be all for it, but instead, he predictably trots out the departed (Deep Throat, Bill) for some hokey blather and an inevitable prod in Samantha’s direction (“No” replies Bill to the question of whether Samantha is near, meaning dead). That Bill turns out to be mistaken in this suggests a rereading of Albert’s “Yes” in response to Fox’s “It wasn’t a dream?” is in order (yes it wasn’t a dream, or yes it was a dream?) Carter apparently did his homework on the Navajo here after getting some things wrong last time, but that doesn’t mean The Blessing Way ultimately feels less like the kind of thing Costner would show up for.

Doctor: Well… it’s definitely not buckshot.

Scully also has her spot of interior reverberation as Melissa persuades her to undergo regression hypnosis, in order to get to the bottom of the not-buckshot found in her neck after she keeps setting off the metal detector in the FBI building. This doesn’t go anywhere very interesting either, perhaps because there’s nowhere interesting to go in Carter’s conception. We aren’t talking Whitley Streiber here. Or even Darin Morgan, come to that. But still, the later consequences of her surgical procedure are reasonably well considered ones in terms of series and character progression.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of The Blessing Way comes at the very start, with Albert’s monologue on memory versus history. In a period in which the conspirasphere has extended its canvas to mudfloods and the potential fabrication of millenniums’ worth of recorded history (or the reframing/ renaming/ repositioning of vital parts of it), the advice “to trust memory over history” is especially resonant. Carter tends to the easy options in The Blessing Way – Duchovny cited it as the show’s biggest missed opportunity in terms of Mulder’s journey – even as he’s gesturing towards more expansive and elusive ones, but he’s still fashioned a season opener that avoids crapping all over its predecessor’s high quality.








Popular posts from this blog

I’m smarter than a beaver.

Prey (2022) (SPOILERS) If nothing else, I have to respect Dan Trachtenberg’s cynical pragmatism. How do I not only get a project off the ground, but fast-tracked as well? I know, a woke Predator movie! Woke Disney won’t be able to resist! And so, it comes to pass. Luckily for Prey , it gets to bypass cinemas and so the same sorry fate of Lightyear . Less fortunately, it’s a patience-testing snook cocking at historicity (or at least, assumed historicity), in which a young, pint-sized Comanche girl who wishes to hunt and fish – and doubtless shoot to boot – with the big boys gets to take on a Predator and make mincemeat of him. Well, of course , she does. She’s a girl, innit?

Everyone creates the thing they dread.

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) (SPOILERS) Avengers: Age of Ultron ’s problem isn’t one of lack. It benefits from a solid central plot. It features a host of standout scenes and set pieces. It hands (most of) its characters strong defining moments. It doesn’t even suffer now the “wow” factor of seeing the team together for the first time has subsided. Its problem is that it’s too encumbered. Maybe its asking to much of a director to effectively martial the many different elements required by an ensemble superhero movie such as this, yet Joss Whedon’s predecessor feels positively lean in comparison. Part of this is simply down to the demands of the vaster Marvel franchise machine. Seeds are laid for Captain America: Civil War , Infinity Wars I & II , Black Panther and Thor: Ragnarok . It feels like several spinning plates too many. Such activity occasionally became over-intrusive on previous occasions ( Iron Man II ), but there are points in Age of Ultron whe

I’m the famous comedian, Arnold Braunschweiger.

Last Action Hero (1993) (SPOILERS) Make no mistake, Last Action Hero is a mess. But even as a mess, it might be more interesting than any other movie Arnie made during that decade, perhaps even in his entire career. Hellzapoppin’ (after the 1941 picture, itself based on a Broadway revue) has virtually become an adjective to describe films that comment upon their own artifice, break the fourth wall, and generally disrespect the convention of suspending disbelief in the fictions we see parading across the screen. It was fairly audacious, some would say foolish, of Arnie to attempt something of that nature at this point in his career, which was at its peak, rather than playing it safe. That he stumbled profoundly, emphatically so since he went up against the behemoth that is Jurassic Park (slotted in after the fact to open first), should not blind one to the considerable merits of his ultimate, and final, really, attempt to experiment with the limits of his screen persona.

If you ride like lightning, you're going to crash like thunder.

The Place Beyond the Pines (2012) (SPOILERS) There’s something daringly perverse about the attempt to weave a serious-minded, generation-spanning saga from the hare-brained premise of The Place Beyond the Pines . When he learns he is a daddy, a fairground stunt biker turns bank robber in order to provide for his family. It’s the kind of “only-in-Hollywood” fantasy premise you might expect from a system that unleashed Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man and Point Break on the world. But this is an indie-minded movie from the director of the acclaimed Blue Valentine ; it demands respect and earnest appraisal. Unfortunately it never recovers from the abject silliness of the set-up. The picture is littered with piecemeal characters and scenarios. There’s a hope that maybe the big themes will even out the rocky terrain but in the end it’s because of this overreaching ambition that the film ends up so undernourished. The inspiration for the movie

Death to Bill and Ted!

Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey (1991) (SPOILERS) The game of how few sequels are actually better than the original is so well worn, it was old when Scream 2 made a major meta thing out of it (and it wasn’t). Bill & Ted Go to Hell , as Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey was originally called, is one such, not that Excellent Adventure is anything to be sneezed at, but this one’s more confident, even more playful, more assured and more smartly stupid. And in Peter Hewitt it has a director with a much more overt and fittingly cartoonish style than the amiably pedestrian Stephen Herrick. Evil Bill : First, we totally kill Bill and Ted. Evil Ted : Then we take over their lives. My recollection of the picture’s general consensus was that it surpassed the sleeper hit original, but Rotten Tomatoes’ review aggregator suggests a less universal response. And, while it didn’t rock any oceans at the box office, Bogus Journey and Point Break did quite nicely for Keanu Reev

I think it’s pretty clear whose side the Lord’s on, Barrington.

Monte Carlo or Bust aka  Those Daring Young Men in Their Jaunty Jalopies (1969) (SPOILERS) Ken Annakin’s semi-sequel to Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines tends to be rather maligned, usually compared negatively to its more famous predecessor. Which makes me rather wonder if those expressing said opinion have ever taken the time to scrutinise them side by side. Or watch them back to back (which would be more sensible). Because Monte Carlo or Bust is by far the superior movie. Indeed, for all its imperfections and foibles (not least a performance from Tony Curtis requiring a taste for comic ham), I adore it. It’s probably the best wacky race movie there is, simply because each set of competitors, shamelessly exemplifying a different national stereotype (albeit there are two pairs of Brits, and a damsel in distress), are vibrant and cartoonish in the best sense. Albeit, it has to be admitted that, as far as said stereotypes go, Annakin’s home side win

This entire edifice you see around you, built on jute.

Jeeves and Wooster 3.3: Cyril and the Broadway Musical  (aka Introduction on Broadway) Well, that’s a relief. After a couple of middling episodes, the third season bounces right back, and that's despite Bertie continuing his transatlantic trip. Clive Exton once again plunders  Carry On, Jeeves  but this time blends it with a tale from  The Inimitable Jeeves  for the brightest spots, as Cyril Basington-Basington (a sublimely drippy Nicholas Hewetson) pursues his stage career against Aunt Agatha's wishes.

Poetry in translation is like taking a shower with a raincoat on.

Paterson (2016) (SPOILERS) Spoiling a movie where nothing much happens is difficult, but I tend to put the tag on in a cautionary sense much of the time. Paterson is Jim Jarmusch at his most inert and ambient but also his most rewardingly meditative. Paterson (Adam Driver), a bus driver and modest poet living in Paterson, New Jersey, is a stoic in a fundamental sense, and if he has a character arc of any description, which he doesn’t really, it’s the realisation that is what he is. Jarmusch’s picture is absent major conflict or drama; the most significant episodes feature Paterson’s bus breaking down, the English bull terrier Marvin – whom Paterson doesn’t care for but girlfriend Laura (Golshifteh Farahani) dotes on – destroying his book of poetry, and an altercation at the local bar involving a gun that turns out to be a water pistol. And Paterson takes it all in his stride, genial to the last, even the ruination of his most earnest, devoted work (the only disappoint

Just because you are a character doesn't mean that you have character.

Pulp Fiction (1994) (SPOILERS) From a UK perspective, Pulp Fiction ’s success seemed like a fait accompli; Reservoir Dogs had gone beyond the mere cult item it was Stateside and impacted mainstream culture itself (hard to believe now that it was once banned on home video); it was a case of Tarantino filling a gap in the market no one knew was there until he drew attention to it (and which quickly became over-saturated with pale imitators subsequently). Where his debut was a grower, Pulp Fiction hit the ground running, an instant critical and commercial success (it won the Palme d’Or four months before its release), only made cooler by being robbed of the Best Picture Oscar by Forrest Gump . And unlike some famously-cited should-have-beens, Tarantino’s masterpiece really did deserve it.

Piece by piece, the camel enters the couscous.

The Forgiven (2021) (SPOILERS) By this point, the differences between filmmaker John Michael McDonagh and his younger brother, filmmaker and playwright Martin McDonagh, are fairly clearly established. Both wear badges of irreverence and provocation in their writing, and a willingness to tackle – or take pot-shots – at bigger issues, ones that may find them dangling their toes in hot water. But Martin receives the lion’s share of the critical attention, while John is generally recognised as the slightly lesser light. Sure, some might mistake Seven Psychopaths for a John movie, and Calvary for a Martin one, but there’s a more flagrant sense of attention seeking in John’s work, and concomitantly less substance. The Forgiven is clearly aiming more in the expressly substantial vein of John’s earlier Calvary, but it ultimately bears the same kind of issues in delivery.