“I know what you’re afraid of. That there’s something wrong with your baby.”
— Monica Reyes
“We can let our fears get the better of us. We can imagine things, make connections with things that aren’t there.” — Dana Scully
Doggett tries to take down Deputy Director Kersh and investigate the mysterious death of an EPA official, while Scully comes to terms with the fact that maybe her miracle baby isn’t very normal.
Radhika: So here we are at season nine. If we were a little hesitant about rewatching season seven, let me warn you: We are not particularly excited about rewatching season nine. It is a truth universally acknowledged amongst the majority of viewers, diehard fans and otherwise, that season nine of The X-Files is probably the most lackluster of them all. This doesn’t mean that there are zero shining moments in the season, but for me personally, it is definitely the one I have the fewest memories of. Though it is possible that I rewatched all the episodes at one point while completing my DVD collection with the ninth season set, I never really viewed the episodes with the same obsessive quality that I did those from previous seasons. So in a way, rewatching season nine is almost like watching a whole new season of the show.
That said, I didn’t completely want to die rewatching this first part of the season-opening two-parter. But my feelings about the episode do mirror aspects of the title itself. Don’t get me wrong — “Nothing Important Happened Today” has some respectable elements, such as Lucy Lawless being delightfully mighty and terrifying. But the other parts of it feel tired, a description we used for parts of season seven and a description I fear I will be using a lot while looking back at this season.
Scully’s on maternity leave, enjoying a little baby time with her new child and she really doesn’t want to believe that there’s anything extraordinary about him. But of course, some unexplained event occurs, which means that poor Scully gets dragged right back into X-Files land, doing an autopsy and helping Doggett figure out what happened to an EPA official that we saw get murdered by a woman named Shannon McMahon, who also murdered a water reclamation plant worker.
Meanwhile, Doggett keeps getting told by everyone — including those on his side — to stop investigating Deputy Director Kersh’s actions against the X-Files. Assistant Director Brad Follmer, a former paramour of Agent Reyes’, also gets involved, giving Reyes tapes that show no evidence of the events Doggett said happened the night William was born. Meanwhile, The Lone Gunmen manage to figure out that the dead official had been receiving data from the dead worker, so Skinner and Doggett go to investigate and find files on a mutation-inducing chemical. Of course, McMahon is on the prowl and Agent Follmer shows up — so when Doggett tries to hide in a filtration tank, it’s only natural that the episode ends with a shot of the superhuman-seeming McMahon trying to pull him even further underwater.
None of this is awful, but even with Lucy Lawless doing a pretty great job playing the aforementioned Shannon McMahon, there is something that feels a little hollow about the episode’s events. Does it have something to do with the fact that Mulder really is gone this time with nary anyone but Doggett expressing any dismay about it? I’m not sure. We see Doggett burst into Mulder’s apartment, only to find it completely bare and when he tries to question Scully, she can only quietly explain that it all makes sense in its own way. And that’s fine and well, I don’t mind or blame the writers for trying to write David Duchovny’s departure that way, but it also feels like most of the post-abduction stuff concerning Mulder was never really carried out with the type of impact it should have had. So there is definitely some element of emptiness I attribute to how that plotline was handled, though I do appreciate that Doggett is incredibly anguished by it all and also pretty hurt that Scully still won’t open up to him.
On a note somewhat related to this Doggett anguish: I said at one point last season that Scully and Doggett have a pretty formal relationship, insisting on calling each other “Agent Doggett” and “Agent Scully” for the most part — not even “Doggett” and “Scully” in the Mulder and Scully fashion. But in this episode, the use of “John” and “Dana” is noticeable, which does at least show us viewers that there is a level of familiarity and trust here, even if the two characters insist on putting on a mask around each other. This is progress.
There’s a good blend of old and new cast members here, which I appreciate in light of Mulder’s absence. At least with The Lone Gunmen and Skinner around, something about this feels pretty X-Files-like even with the credits changed to omit Duchovny, while including Annabeth Gish and Mitch Pillegi. But I can also sense the mythology’s death knell here and I really wish we didn’t have to go what feels like the predictable route of William having some paranormal quality. If there had to be a baby on this show, I think it would have been much more refreshing for the child to be normal. Sure, there could still be worries about his safety, but we’ve already seen elements of what we’re encountering here with the character of Emily Sim back in season five… and frankly, Scully deserves just a little less heartache this time.
Max: I can understand where Radhika is coming from where baby William is concerned. In a horribly overused bit of storytelling for works of science fiction, the miracle child seems to be going down the well-trodden route of hybrid or part-hybrid offspring whose existence will soon prove to be of great importance to the overarching plot. And while the presence of William looms over Scully’s storyline, the absence of Mulder — and the unwillingness of Duchovny to continue past his agreed upon half-season of episodes — makes his absence a fait accompli, causing the writers to perhaps contort the dynamics of our heroes in ways that come off as jarring, even when recent events have brought them to care more about each other than ever before.
And it has become a bit of an old saw in these reviews when we talk about how we are entering a new era of The X-Files or that the episode we are reviewing rearranges the playing field into a new status quo, but that is exactly what happens in “Nothing Important Happened Today,” as we the audience are inducted into how things are going to operate in what will prove to be (at least until sometime next year) the last nineteen episodes of our beloved program. As usual, we are dragged into yet another situation where people aren’t exactly who they seem to be and the web of conspiracy is tying up our heroes into knots.
Lawless’ Shannon McMahon as apparently yet another super soldier brings another wrinkle to things, and by all accounts should be expected, given that she was in the same military unit as Knowle Rohrer. However, it is unbelievably convenient that Doggett was a member of this same group. We rolled our eyes back in season five when Jeffrey Spender was introduced with his alien abductee mother, and later found it rich when it was revealed that the CSM was his father and marveled at the odds that the FBI was such a locus of extraterrestrial activity and conspiracy that affected the lives of two different agents (and probable half brothers). Was Doggett fated to work in the basement office? Was it his connection to Rohrer and McMahon that filtered down the chain of command to have Kersh assign him to the investigation into Mulder’s whereabouts?
Despite this, the mythology junkie in me liked how the writers have managed to keep things relatively consistent, especially this late in the game. McMahon is able to sustain herself underwater for long periods of time just like Dr. Secare in “The Erlenmeyer Flask,” who was the result of some of the early experiments in creating an alien-human hybrid.
All in all, this is an interesting if not completely successful kickoff to what is the long fade out of The X-Files‘ final season. A lot of the crutches that got us through even the worst episodes are pulled out from under us, and we are a ways away from the fond memories of Vancouver and the tantalizing promise of a show going from strength to strength. For you, our faithful readers, rest assured that we plan on celebrating the show in spite of these misgivings.
ADDENDUM TO THE ART OF A CREDIT SEQUENCE
The credits undergo a massive facelift here — another familiar crutch we don’t have anymore — ditching everything that came before and retooling for what Carter and company thought could be another era in The X-Files, slowly phasing Scully out and having Doggett and Reyes take on the mantle completely. This will prove not to be the case, and so the credits are an artifact of a future that never came.
Radhika mentioned the new additions to the lineup, interspersed between quite bland and CGI-ed to death scenes that pale in comparison to the potent and evocative enigmas of the classic credits sequence. Everything just seems off: too slick and too clean for a program that exists in the shadows. What is nice though is that — to honor the fans that made the show the juggernaut it became — the production team inserted the usernames of different official message board members into the credit sequences of each episode.
YES, IT’S THOSE GUYS
Cary Elwes – “As you wish!” The actor probably best known for his roles in The Princess Bride and Robin Hood: Men in Tights joins The X-Files in the recurring role of Assistant Director Brad Follmer. Elwes has also been in movies including Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Twister and Saw. He had a recurring role on Psych.
Lucy Lawless – Appearing here as Shannon McMahon, Lawless is probably best known for playing the title character in the TV show Xena: Warrior Princess. She is also well known for her time on Battlestar Galactica and for playing Lucretia in Spartacus: Blood and Sand, Spartacus: Gods of the Arena and Spartacus: Vengeance, while also taking a more comedic turn on Parks and Recreation.