“Mmm. More huevos rancheros.” – Richard Langly
“Mas huevos rancheros.” – Melvin Frohike
“Por favor.” – John Fitzgerald Byers
The strange tale of Fox Mulder and Morris Fletcher comes to an end as our heroes figure out what happened on that Nevada highway.
Max: The second part of this strange mythology/MOTW hybrid is more or less the players coming to the realization that all is not right in the world and searching for a way to put things back to where they belong. This includes several close calls and run-ins, with further strange space-time aberrations to boot.
I spoke yesterday about how these episodes are deconstructing the mythos of Area 51, and this perhaps is given no clearer example than when General Wegman, who we discover is the source that brought the agents out to Nevada in the first place, asks Mulder (still as Fletcher) with wide-eyed anticipation if aliens really do exist. It is a move that still gives me a good chuckle, because what is revealed is that Area 51 is merely a house of cards, a playground for obfuscation and misdirection meant to keep the conspiracy minded amongst us (the Lone Gunmen included) occupied while the real skullduggery goes on someplace else.
Luckily, Scully’s skepticism hasn’t blinded her to her “partner’s” strange behavior the past couple of days, and takes “Mulder’s” invitation for dinner (after being suspended, of course) as a chance to entrap Fletcher after she catches him in a lie. Fletcher going through Mulder’s personnel file and apartment is reminiscent and an inversion of when Eddie Van Blundht assumed Mulder’s identity in “Small Potatoes.” While Van Blundht admired Mulder and used the chance to replace him as an opportunity at a better life, Fletcher was astonished at how pathetic a life this civil servant has. This is made clear to him when he (and the audience, finally) discovers Mulder’s bedroom, which has been used as a storage dump for everything from old case files to porn magazines. Rehabilitating the space with an incredibly chintzy waterbed and mirrored ceiling, Fletcher tries (and fails) to bed Scully.
Meanwhile, Mulder still has to deal with children that clearly hate him and a wife who vacillates from scorned to desperate. He takes Joanne out to the infamous Little A’Le’Inn bar to attempt to make amends, but ends up in a clusterfuck when he sees Fletcher and Scully procuring the flight data recorder from the General at the same time Fletcher’s fellow Men in Black descend on the bar to catch the traitor in their midst. Surprisingly, it is a more subdued upon rewatch than what I remembered, the laughs coming from subtle interactions rather than more overt sight gags. When Man in Black Howard Grodin realizes what is happening with the space-time continuum, that the warp that started this whole mess is snapping back, he intercepts Mulder and Fletcher in time to have the aftershocks return everything (well, almost everything) to the status quo.
What I find interesting about these episodes is how hard it is to put your finger on them. There are plenty of funny moments, but like Radhika said, there are times of sobering horror and seriousness. The humor undercuts a lot of the moody atmospherics of a typical mythology episode, which makes the times this episode plays things straight all the more affecting. In the end, “Dreamland” proves to be a enjoyable interlude despite the fact that Mulder and Scully are no closer to the X-Files (or the truth) than they were at the start of these episodes.
Radhika: While watching “Dreamland II” made me wish the two episodes had really just been one, I did enjoy some of the more genuinely poignant moments as well, which added a different layer of seriousness than the ones seen in “Dreamland.” One such scene involves Mulder and Scully trying to come to terms with the highly likely possibility that Mulder may never be able to switch back to his own body. Of course, this is also slightly undercut by Mulder asking “If I shoot [Morris]… is that murder or suicide?” with Scully responding, “Neither, if I do it first.” But of course there’s some poignancy in that banter itself, being that it’s such a Mulder and Scully trademark. That moment also makes me wish the agents could have actual memories of what happened by the time the episode ended, because maybe we’d finally see less of automatically skeptical Scully. But alas, Scully’s eroding skepticism is still a work in progress for now.
Morris Fletcher also gets a moment to show a shred of humanity — when he finally breaks down and tells his wife that the body swap is real. As he reveals details of the life they’ve shared together (slightly cliched, but touching details, like the first time he held their firstborn), we see that underneath the heinous line of work and miserable suburban existence, there lies a man who also has a heart (to some degree). The “Small Potatoes” comparison Max makes was also running through my mind, even in part one — and on some level, I don’t think any of us can entirely blame Morris for wanting to make a “better” life for himself now that he can present himself in a slightly “better” package. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that he can be excused for his idiocy and the sour place his actual life is in right now. His odious nature remains a strong thread in the episode prior to his speech to his wife — as seen in the scenes with The Lone Gunmen, where Morris brags about how they’re basically pawns in the Men in Black’s game, printing planted conspiracy theories. Morris could certainly fix a lot of things about himself, but we can at least grasp that it’s been something of a journey to get to the point where he is now. So it’s something of a relief that we see less of a caricature when he opens up to his wife.
As I alluded to above, I do think “Dreamland”/”Dreamland II” could have been tighter if they were part of one package (and I still feel that these episodes are more standalone MOTW episodes than they are mythology). While some of the comedy was fun, and you can tell that the cast probably liked having a break from the usual X-Files fare, the episodes do feel bloated with not a ton of reward in the end. But I still give the show runners points for trying to get a little creative and change the formula up a bit.