“You say we’re dead. This seem like heaven to you? A big deserted Catholic hospital?”
— Monica Reyes
“I didn’t say this was heaven. For all I know, it’s… hell. I don’t know anything for sure. Maybe this place is a way station; to what comes next.” — Stephen Murdoch
After Reyes gets into a car accident, she “wakes up” in what is essentially an empty hospital, while Doggett tries to figure out how to stop doctors from pulling the plug on her.
Radhika: I suppose this is one of the better episodes of season nine, even though parts of it feel a bit incomplete or hollow to me. It takes a seemingly ordinary (if devastating) event, puts a paranormal twist on it and we also get some character-building emotional moments for Doggett. But of course, there are portions that feel slow, and Scully feels even more pointless in this episode than she has in other episodes this season, so I really can’t give it too much credit. (I also still find Reyes incredibly dull as a character, so there’s that).
In this episode, Reyes ends up comatose after a car accident and Doggett is determined to keep her alive, despite everyone — especially the doctor who eagerly declares her organ donor status — telling him she’s brain dead and has no hope. Meanwhile, Reyes is not entirely “gone.” She wakes up in a mostly empty hospital floating in the middle of space or some type of void, with barely any writing anywhere, and finds herself encountering two other guys, including a Stephen Murdoch who is pretty convinced they’re dead. Eventually both men disappear — and we, the viewers, are aware that they have been pulled off life support.
Meanwhile, a woman named Audrey Pauley — who works as something of an aid in the hospital — mysteriously floats in and out of reality and the hospital Reyes is in. We find out she’s the person who built a model of the hospital that acts as Reyes’s current realm, and Doggett uses her to communicate to Reyes and tell her to wake up. Reyes wakes up just in the nick of time before her organs are harvested and Doggett nabs the doctor who has been encouraging patient deaths — but he isn’t able to prevent Audrey’s death by the doctor’s hand.
I give “Audrey Pauley” points for trying to incorporate something of an interesting concept. And there are some cool visuals with the fake hospital floating around. But I have mixed feelings about the Reyes/Doggett relationship as presented here — to me, their relationship has never felt quite as organic as Mulder and Scully’s, and I suppose you can chalk that up somewhat to chemistry. The dialogue in the beginning of the episode, which is supposed to build a nice moment with the two characters, actually felt really forced to me with Reyes declaring that Doggett is a dog person because he is faithful and dependable. And then of course in the episode, we have Doggett being told that he “loves” Reyes — which is fine and well, whether it’s romantic or platonic — but there’s just way too much telling and not a whole lot of showing in such scenes. I found the moments where Doggett is trying to figure out how to save Reyes a much better way of demonstrating his loyalty and affection.
But while this is a good episode for Doggett’s character, Reyes generally feels like an idiot to me and I kind of get why she earned the nickname “Moronica” for a while over on Television Without Pity (RIP). Scully sadly feels like she has no purpose in the episode aside from being the killjoy who tells Doggett repeatedly that there’s no real hope for Reyes to survive. I guess it makes sense for her to be around as a gesture of support for her former partner, but her scenes felt largely useless. And though I’m all for well-done ambiguity, we’re never given a reason to understand why the doctor was so hell-bent on harvesting organs. So all in all, I still can’t find myself completely loving the episode.
Max: In my estimation, as Radhika and I have ventured further into the show’s history and inexorably toward the as-of-then final episode, we have had to grapple with the fact that The X-Files is not what it used to be, and how the typical strains of a program getting long in the tooth affects not only the finished product we are rewatching but also how we tackle writing about it for the blog. By now you are well acquainted with the usual criticisms and making note of the positive elements — most always with caveats attached — so it is definitely a challenge to creatively engage with episodes without coming off as a broken record, this season especially.
I do admit that Reyes as a character has a lot of flaws, and perhaps my defense of her stems from what I believe is the potential her character has coupled with the great performances that Annabeth Gish has essayed on other shows I have seen her in. Retrospectively, anybody should have known that trying to recapture lightning in a bottle — in any measure — with a new pairing would be a futile undertaking. The comparisons would always be begged to be made, and lord knows we have made plenty of them over the past few months.
All of the factors that went into Mulder and Scully — time, novelty, energy — are denied to Doggett and Reyes by dint of the simple fact that the show is close to 200 episodes in. Fans become restless, and not even the best writers room can maintain a level of excellence for this long. I never saw the show Scrubs, but I am sure this is why the half-reboot of bringing in new student doctors didn’t help that show out either. [Radhika’s note: I completely ditched Scrubs by the time the new doctors came in.]
That being said, “Audrey Pauley” doesn’t bore me and I didn’t spend the 45 minutes watching it with my mind drifting off and thinking of what I would rather be doing with my time at that moment. I really enjoyed the atmosphere put on display, and the whole episode had this sense of claustrophobia — even in the actual hospital scenes. Preijers may not be the most memorable adversary of The X-Files, but his somewhat grounded motivations (as much as they are within the confines of the oft used organ trafficking trope) play pretty well thematically with Pauley’s unique gifts. It is unfortunate that, like the role Tracey Ellis played in “Oubilette,” Pauley has to die in the service of saving someone else’s life. I don’t know if Ellis’ casting was deliberate in that regard, but I’ll take whatever resonances I can derive at this point.
YES, IT’S THOSE GUYS
Stan Shaw – Seen here as Stephen Murdoch, Shaw has appeared in numerous TV, movie and stage productions, including Roots: The Next Generations, Fried Green Tomatoes, Daylight, Matlock and Murder, She Wrote.
Tracey Ellis – After we last saw her play a major role in season three episode, “Oubliette,” Ellis returns here as Audrey Pauley. Though it appears this episode was her last credit, Ellis has been in a few movies and a number of TV shows, which include Law & Order, ER and Dharma and Greg.
Vernee Watson-Johnson – Playing Nurse Whitney Edwards here, Watson-Johnson is best known for roles as Vernajean Williams on Welcome Back, Kotter and Viola “Vy” Smith on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Additional TV appearances include L.A. Law, Dexter, The Big Bang Theory and Southland. She has also done voice roles on shows including Animaniacs and Batman: The Animated Series.