The X-Files = Awesome
I have a few memories of watching The X-Files when I was young with my mom and my aunt. I don’t really recall any specific episodes, but I do remember liking it, thinking it was both weird and good.
Turns out they have all of The X-Files on Netflix. I came across this at some point last year and started watching it, starting at episode one, season one, and going from there. Since I don’t have cable or anything, this has been an especially fun endeavor for me. Some of the episodes are familiar, but I really didn’t remember any all that well. I must not have watched it regularly and I definitely stopped watching it long before they stopped making it. I’m currently on season 6. My husband, who must have watched it longer and more faithfully than I did, assures me that it starts to go downhill at some point. That might be true, but I haven’t gotten to that point yet. Some episodes are better than others, but I’m really enjoying it, both for entertainment value and as a writer. In honour of the new X-Files episodes that will be coming to television shortly, here are a few things I’ve noticed over the last few months that make this show such great storytelling.
The Main Characters. Ah Mulder and Scully, you are wonderful. These are great characters both individually and together. They each have a deep background that comes in and out of play in their dealings with each other and the various situations they find themselves in. They aren’t standard FBI agents, neither are they a standard man and woman. Alternating the plot between exploring these characters personally and just having them do their job keeps it interesting. They also never get together romantically (so far!) which is frustrating and brilliant. The unique dynamic between these two, where they clearly love each other and yet never become a couple is masterfully executed.
Supporting Characters. Skinner, the smoking man, frigging Krycek, Scully’s family, Mulder’s family are consistent and realistic within context of the show. Scully’s brother Bill might only pop up once in a while, but when he does you know who he is and what to expect. Since the show ran for nine seasons, having these characters come in and out with their own lives, motivations and backgrounds introduce conflicts or help resolve them in ways that seem perfectly natural.
Story Arch. The story arch is what keeps you hooked episode after episode, season after season. There is both a long view and an episodic one. Some episodes are self-contained, 45 minute stories with a beginning, middle and an end that you could probably watch and be satisfied by even if you had never seen the show before. Others play solely to the plots that snake through the entire series and move the agents along their journey through the black world of high level government conspiracies and alien take overs. This satisfies the need for short term gratification and also rewards a longer emotional investment. You stick with it and you’re happy to do so.
Humour. What I didn’t remember, or failed to appreciate at the time, was that the show is funny. For all its darkness, death, kidnapping and aliens, it’s also just funny. Mulder has his quirks and quips and Scully has her reactions to Mulder’s often ill-timed goofiness. Some of the episodes are purely humorous and are really making fun of the show itself which I think is done with grace. When you’re watching and starting to think, okay, this is getting a little ridiculous, there’s Scully who looks to Mulder, exasperated by the absurdity she finds herself in to declare, “but Mulder, this is getting a little ridiculous!” Don’t take yourself too seriously.
Good Actors. I am looking at this as a fiction writer, but of course, The X-Files is a TV show, not a book and props are due where they are due. The actors are great because they own their characters and portray them faithfully every time. I think it helps that they have the same actors play the same characters throughout the series (up to season 6, anyway) which gives you consistency. Also playing the same character for ten years probably gives you a pretty intimate knowledge of that person and that is undoubtedly part of why the show was so successful. David Duchovny is Fox Mulder for me, the viewer. Gillian Anderson is Dana Scully and Nicholas Lea, who is probably a perfectly pleasant human being, is the hated Alex Krycek. Most importantly, and perhaps the secret to their success, you get the feeling that to perform these characters so faithfully over such a long period of time, they must have enjoyed playing them as much as I enjoy watching them.
Since I don’t have cable or satellite or anything, I’m not sure when I’ll get to see the new episodes coming out this month. Maybe they’ll end up on Netflix or I’ll be able to buy them on DVD. In the meantime, I still have a few seasons to go with Mulder and Scully and if you haven’t seen this show since it was on in the nineties, make a cup of tea, suspend your disbelief and prepare yourself for a wild and entertaining ride.
Posted on January 17, 2016, in Articles, review, Television, Writing and tagged characters, David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Mulder, Netflix, review, Scully, The X-Flies, writing. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.