Friday, November 22, 2013

1x10: Fallen Angel

But you saved me! As difficult and as frustrating as it's been sometimes, your goddamned sweet monsters and crazy plots have saved me a thousand times over. You kept me entertained. You made me think. I owe you everything... X-Files, and you owe me a third movie nothing. I don't know if I wanna watch any other show. I don't even know if I can. And if I quit now, they win.

That... that was a really weird quote appropriation.  I don't even know if it made sense. But it's been a weird kind of day, so whatever. You work with what you got.

In case anyone has forgotten, here's a list of themes we'll be keeping in mind over the course of these reviews:

1. The show is as much about Scully's journey toward becoming a believer as it is about the paranormal events she and Mulder encounter.
2. Scully is only a skeptic when viewing things from a clinical distance; when the shit hits the fan, she acts on Mulder's crazy beliefs because she knows it will keep her alive.
3. Mulder isn't right nearly as often as he thinks.
4. The evolution of the Mulder/Scully relationship - not just the romantic involvement that eventually occurs, but their dynamics of trust and distrust, the changing ways they view each other, and the friendship that grows over time.
5. Assault on a federal officer never seems to lead to jail time.
6. Mulder is kind of a dick.
7. Hotels, car rental places, and apartment landlords must be crazy to rent to FBI agents.
8. The enormous top-secret government conspiracy actually really sucks at keeping things quiet.
9.  There are some serious homoerotic undertones in this show.
10. The X-files department is super toxic to anyone who comes close to it.
11. Mulder and Scully are both terrible at their jobs.
12. Local law enforcement is protrayed in an extremely negative light.
13. This show is white-washed as fuck. And almost all the non-whites are villains or stereotypes.
14. Bathtubs are scary, terrible places that should be avoided at all costs.

I reserve the right to add more items to this list as the series progresses and you can't stop me!

Also, please remember that I've seen this series, oh, about a million times and will probably be referencing events and plotlines that won't come up in these reviews for a long long time. So if you hate spoilers, warning: here be monsters.

Townsend, Wisconsin
12:57 A.M. Day 1

We see some fiery explosions in the woods and a police vehicle pulls up. The sheriff's deputy inside radios for fire crews, but the line is nothing but static.

US Space Surveillance Center
Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado

An officer tells his superior that they've picked up an "unidentified bogey," which maneuvered like no known craft and then and crashed in Townsend, Wisconsin.. The colonel shuts down any talk of weirdness by saying it was just a meteor, and the strange movement was an equipment malfunction on their end, and their reports better reflect it (with a not so subtly-implied "or else"). When he's out of earshot of his staff, he dials his cell phone and starts talking code, confirming a "fallen angel" and ordering someone to initiate "Operation Falcon."

Holy shit, look at the size of that phone!!

Back in Townsend, the deputy is walking through the woods where he sees more explosions. Something rushes at him, accompanied by bright flashing lights, and he screams.

Budget-Rest Motel
Townsend, Wisconsin
12:57 A.M. Day 1

Mulder prepares to do some black ops shit as a news program behind him explains that toxic cargo on a wrecked train has forced the evacuation of the whole town. In flashback, we see Deep Throat telling him about a crash and the top-secret cleanup that's begun, and how Mulder has 24 hours before the entire area is sanitized.

Uh, there must be some sort of screw-up in the taglines here. Because Mulder would be in the hotel at the exact same moment the deputy saw the flames and the colonel was ordering that cleanup. Which means the flashback would be happening BEFORE the crash being described. Also, it's daylight in the news report Mulder is watching, as well as in the flashback where Deep Throat says the crash occurred "last night," so at least some time must have passed.

Anyway, we cut to Mulder running through some foggy woods and coming up against a laser fence.

I know this is supposed to look high-tech and futuristic, but all I can think is that a magic laser detection fence
would be a lot more effective if it wasn't visible.

He goes around it and finds what is obviously a military campsite, with helicopters flying overhead, big trucks at the main gate, and guys in uniforms standing around conspicuously.

Filing this under #8. There are dozens of people milling around this crash area, and at least some of them must be bright enough to realize there aren't any train tracks around and hey, that kind of looks like a spaceship or something. That's assuming they're even supposed to believe the cover story; they could easily be in on the whole cover-up, and it's probably better, for safety's sake, if they are. So we're supposed to believe there's an entire military unit dedicated to covering up crashed UFOs, and no one's told a wife or girlfriend or anyone? The sheer amount of paperwork involved in this is mind-boggling. A conspiracy this massive would almost certainly never be a conspiracy for long.

They do later explain how devastatingly discredited anyone is who tries to tell the truth, how the conspiracy has arranged things so that anyone who claims to have seen a UFO (or I guess worked a government-sanctioned cleanup of one) is ridiculed and made to look like an idiot in front of everyone. And the conspiracy itself is supposed to be massive, like this hideous black tumor pulsing just beneath the surface of civilized society. And they don't really show any qualms when it comes to executing people who would reveal it.

Still, thank God this all happened in the age before smart phones, because otherwise every single one of those soldier guys would have videos of this shit up on Youtube before you could say E.B.E.

Operation Falcon
Field Headquarters

A lieutenant hops out of a personnel carrier and talks to the colonel from the teaser (Henderson), who orders him to go to live rounds; the lieutenant is surprised, as he was told this was just a drill, but the colonel says he was told wrong.  A bunch more soldiers hop out of the nearby truck, and as they walk away, Mulder drops out from beneath it and sort-of-stealthily scampers into the forest.

That night in the woods, Mulder hides from a patrol of soldiers and sees a light in the distance. He walks towards it and discovers the crash site milling with men in protective gear.

He snaps a few photos before someone gets the drop on him and knocks him out with the butt of a gun.

Back at the military camp, Col. Henderson takes the film out of Mulder's camera and exposes it to bright light, destroying his photos. He tells Mulder that he's committed a federal crime by violating a government quarantine, and that he better forget what he saw (again, not-so-subtly implying "or else").

They take him to a temporary brig made of chain-link fence, where he meets MAX FENIG!!!

He bears a shocking resemblance to one of my ex-boyfriends, which is very disturbing and yet explains
SO MUCH about that relationship.
MAX FENIG: Are you MUFON or CUFOS?  Do you mind if I sit down? Let me guess you're with that new group--CSICOP, right? Um, say no more. You're a cautious man. Trust no one. Very wise. After what happened to JFK I understand completely. 
I had completely forgotten that it was Max who first says "trust no one," but there it is. He's also wearing a sweet NICAP hat (National Investigate Committee of Arial Phenomenon), indicating what a massive P-I-M-P he really is. He says he didn't get to see anything, but that this is shaping up to be the Roswell cover-up all over again.

The next morning, Max is gone from his cell and Scully comes to save Mulder's ass yet again. She tells him the section chief is ordering a fill inquiry with a recommendation to shut down the X-Files and kick Mulder out of the bureau. He tells her it's worth it to get the truth, and that this wasn't a train wreck. She knows - it was a downed Libyan jet with a nuclear warhead, duh! She seems all proud to have obtained this highly classified information, until Mulder dismisses it as a highly classified lie. He says the military is searching for somebody in the wreckage.

Cut to the woods, where a blurry something-or-other runs through the laser fence.

Mulder and Scully argue as they walk to their hotel - he wants to stay and investigate, she wants to get them both back to DC before they get in any more trouble. They walk into Mulder's room and find it's a total mess - someone has broken in and trashed the place. #7
I feel so bad for the maid who has to clean all of this up later.

They hear a noise in the bathroom and see someone trying to escape through the window - it's Max Fenig, and he would very much prefer they don't shoot him. He apologizes for being such a stalker with a raging fangirl boner for Mulder (#9), but everyone at NICAP has been following Mulder's career very closely (thanks to the Freedom of Information Act). He's also quite excited to meet "the enigmatic Agent Scully." He recognized Mulder from a photo of him in a "trade publication," and read his article in Omni about the Gulf Breeze sightings - published under the shittiest pseudonym ever, M.F. Luder.

He leads them out to his trailer and it is totally a mobile version of the X-Files office. Papers and photos tacked up everywhere, weird nick-knacks and books on every shelf, mass chaos. Seriously, Max is just what Mulder would be if his father hadn't been an old-money government employee. Even their names have a certain similarity: Max Fenig, Fox Mulder... keep saying them over and over and you'll see what I mean.

They talk crop circles while Scully pokes around, and finds a shelf full of drugs. Not even  the fun kind either, but the take-these-or-lose-your-mind kind.

He shows them a fancy-ass piece of electronics equipment he IDs as the Wolf Ear 2000, a CIA-grade frequency scanner, which picked up the sheriff's deputy calling for help in Townsend as well as the responding unit arriving on the scene, saying there was a man down and "what the hell, we've got a situation here!"

Back at Falcon Headquarters, Hendersen is on the phone telling someone "it will not get away" this time.

Mills Road High School
Emergency Evacuation Center
6:27 PM Day 2

Moose and Squirrel approach the sheriff's wife at the evacuation center, and of course she doesn't want to talk to them - the government is refusing to release his body, and told her if she spoke to anyone, they would withhold her husband's pension.

Just then, the lights go out.

US Microwave Substation B21

A high-pitched screeching sound fills the station as a military police officer tells Henderson they've picked up the "target." Henderson gives the order to search and destroy. Two teams rush out of the station and comb through the facility, but find nothing. Just as one team leader says it must have just been an animal, both teams get knocked to the ground by the blurry entity, and bright white lights flash.

County Hospital
Townsend, Wisconsin
11:42 PM

Mulder and Scully speak to the doctor who treated the deputy, but he's reluctant to talk to them; Mulder deduces that "they" must be threatening him the same way they did the wife. The doctor, still bristling about the way those fascists pushed everyone around, decides to spill: the deputy and 3 others from the fire grew came in dead-on-arrival with 5th and 6th degree burns over 90% of their bodies, and the government took the bodies away before he could perform any autopsies.  Mulder and Scully if the damage could have been caused by radiation exposure, and the doctor says it's possible if the exposure was intense enough.

M&S walk down the hallway - she thinks the burns were from the cracked nuclear warhead of a downed Libyan jet, Mulder has a stack of X-files recording the same burns as the result of close encounters with UFOs. She reminds him again that they have to get back to the OPR inquest or there won't be any more X-files.

Just then, a bunch of military men - the ones from the substation - come in on stretchers, covered in severe burns. Henderson is with them and glares at Mulder as he passes.

Mulder confronts Henderson in the ER about the entity (surrounded by his dying men), but Henderson wants nothing to do with him. Scully gets to stay because she's a doctor and it's all-hands-on-deck to save the burned soldiers, but Henderson kicks Mulder out.

He heads straight to Max's trailer and finds him seizing; when he comes to, he reveals that he's had epilepsy since he was 10 but this is his first episode in 7 years. His doctors thought it started as a result of a head injury, but he can't recall ever hitting his head, and he used to wake up in strange places no knowing where he was or how he got there. Mulder helps him into bed and notices a mark behind his ear.

In his hotel room, Mulder is studying some casefiles. Scully comes in and reveals that only 2 men are still alive, in critical condition on their way to Johns Hopkins. She's anxious to get on their plane and get back to DC, but Mulder tells her he thinks Max Fenig is an abductee - his scars are identical to those of two different women in his files. She thinks Max is a nut - only one of the drugs in his trailer was for epilepsy, but the other is used to treat schizophrenia. Mulder clarifies that Max doesn't claim to be an abductee, but rather that Mulder himself suspects it; he asks her to take a gander at Max's scar. She agrees, reluctantly, as long as it's on their way to the airport.

Look at her face up there. She's just spent the whole night caring for dying men in the ER; her job is in jeopardy because her dick of a partner went and did something stupid AGAIN that might get their department shut down; she's mentally and physically exhausted and just wants to get Mulder back to DC for his own good. And yet all he has to do is give her a little smile, appeal to her compassion and knowledge as a doctor, and she'll agree to help him. Even though she thinks he's insane. #4 I can't tell if it's pity or compassion or Stockholm syndrome.

US Space Surveillance Center
Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado

The techs spot something at the same place as the first UFO meteor, but this time it's much larger... and this time, the "meteor" is hovering over a small town in Eastern Wisconsin.

The shot cuts to the entity's weird fisheye POV - it's watching Max, asleep in his trailer. Blood trickles out of his ear, soaking the pillow. He opens his eyes and the screen fades to white.

M&S knock on the trailer door and find it empty. His scanner is still running, and they hear Henderson say something about an unidentified trespasser at the waterfront.

Mulder runs to the car, Scully yelling after him that they have to get to the airport right now so he can at least have a chance at defending himself in front of OPR. Mulder thinks it's not a coincidence that a nomad like Max was in Townsend the very same night a UFO crashed there, and that Col. Henderson has probably figured this out, too. Scully reluctantly hands him the keys - knowing it could mean sacrificing her career and Mulder's in pursuit of a truth she doesn't really believe. But dammit, she believes in Mulder. #4

Take my keys, my career, and my heart. It's all yours, anyway.

I didn't tear up writing that, I swear.

Lake Michigan Waterfront
Dock 7

Max stumbles along, holding his bleeding ear, and he's approached by two guys in military fatigues. Henderson comes on the radio and says to take him with extreme caution.

Scully and Mulder roll up in their rent-a-car and find those same two soldiers burned to a crisp. Scully checks their pulses but they're obviously dead.

[This, by the way, is one of the best blooper moments from season 1. Instead of saying, "They're dead," she touches the two burned bodies, with smoke pouring off their clothes, and says, "They're done."]

They hear Max screaming and run toward the sound. They find him in an empty warehouse, repeating again and again that "it hurts" and "they're coming for me." Military vehicles pull up outside the warehouse, and Henderson tells them to secure the exterior. Scully comes out and is immediately apprehended and dragged to the colonel; she tries to tell him that Max is a delusional schizophrenic man he won't listen. One of the military guys has a heat-sensing camera... and it's picking up 3 forms inside the warehouse. Henderson says to go in in 30 seconds.

Meanwhile, inside the warehouse, Scully is YET AGAIN MISSING FUCKING EVERYTHING:

There's a lot of flashing light, and outside, the guy with the heat camera reports that there is now only one figure inside. The blow the door off the warehouse with plastic explosives, and a bunch of soldiers bust in to find Mulder, alone, picking up Max's NICAP hat from the floor.

FBI Headquarters
Washington, D.C.
Office of Professional Responsibility Hearing
10:17 A.M. Day 4

Boring men in suits ask Scully if Mulder at any point requested to be assigned to investigate the Townsend evacuation, and she honestly answers no. She tries to defend Mulder but they refuse to let her speak, and she is dismissed.

Anyway, in the hall outside, Mulder tells Scully it was only a matter of time before the X-files were shut down. He goes into the office to have his turn, and Scully picks up the newspaper he was reading:


Can we all just take a second to appreciate Scully's outfit, here? The shoulderpads are still pretty bad, but the jack fits properly and her skirt is an appropriate length for someone of her age and profession. And it's not cranberry-colored or have huge lapels or anything. Even that strange collar on the blouse is kind of cute. This may be her best outfit all season.

Inside the OPR hearing, the section chief tries to scold Mulder but he's not having it - even this hearing is part of the coverup, lies stamped with an official seal. He walks out, saying that no government agency has jurisdiction over the truth.

Later, in a courtyard, Deep Throat and the section chief from the hearing are having a less-than-friendly conversation. DT has apparently overturned their decision to close the X-files, thereby ruining their best chance to get rid of him. DT tells him it's a simple matter of keeping your friends close, but your enemies closer.

Roll end credits.

This is another of those early quasi-mytharc episodes that's fun while you're along for the ride but looks really weird when you step back with the perspective of the rest of the series. Max Fenig, a multiple-abductee, was in Wisconsin when a UFO came for him. That UFO crashed, initiating a massive cover-up. Okay, believable... well, in TXF context, anyway. We have no idea what caused the crash, and that's never addressed, but I suppose we could explain it with magnetite or whatever that stuff is from season 9 that makes UFOs and EBEs go all wonky. Some sort of entity survives the crash, and runs around killing military personnel for a little while, presumably in self-defense because they were trying to capture it.  It's not a gray, or a rebel, or a bounty hunter, or a hybrid, or any of the other extraterrestrial entities we see later in the series. It's not even Lord Kimbote; it's just a blurry blob thing. Does it possess Max, or is it like the "force" from the Pilot, driving him to the warehouse to be abducted? And then there's the matter of the second ship, showing up presumably both to rescue the blur and to complete its original mission of abducting Max. I feel like this episode would have been better if we hadn't seen that weird blur, if there was no entity but was purely about the cover-up and subsequent re-abduction. Also, there was NO GODDAMN REASON for Scully to leave that warehouse when she KNEW the military was looking for them, except that plot once again dictates that she never sees what's going on. Fuck it, we're adding that to the list:

15. Plot and logic will be completely discarded just so Scully can have some reason not to witness the big paranormal events of the episode.

Next week, we'll celebrate Black Friday the proper American way: watching two intensely creepy twins murder their fathers and meet their own insane (and occasionally cannibalistic) clones.

Firsts: Max Fenig!, "trust no one," Mulder has a fandom,


  1. Hooray! The wardrobe people didn't hate Scully for once!

  2. I am so glad someone else noticed the random invisible alien that never makes an appearance ever again, lol. I try so hard to sort out the different aliens/hybrids in my head, but this one always derails my efforts. They use radiation burns with the black oil, and the make alien space ships turn invisible, but never again do they have the aliens themselves turn invisible. One of the hazards of making it up as you go along XD.

    This is one of my favorite season one episodes, in terms of mytharc ones. I also never realized that Max is the first person to say trust no one, I always assumed it was Deepthroat. Decades later and I'm still finding new things with this show. This one really cemented Scully's uncompromising dedication to Mulder. So much risk of losing her career!