Sunday, June 28, 2015

#TheXFilesRewatch 1x01 "Pilot" (Sorry, Nobody Down Here But the FBI's Most Unwanted) [Contributor: Lizzie]


"Pilot"
Original Airdate: September 10, 1993

How can I start anywhere in a re-watch of The X-Files but with the pilot? And I say this with the requisite amount of irony, because I, like many other fans didn’t really watch the pilot until Mulder and Scully were already so ingrained that watching these na├»ve and relatively untouched versions of our favorite characters makes us want to scream things like: "YOU HAVE TO TRUST EACH OTHER and JUST EACH OTHER, NO ONE ELSE, please, please pleaaaase, NO ONE ELSE."

But that’s a story for later. Much later. For now, let’s talk about how this series started.

(Side note: I’ve never been this excited to press play on something. Or to see the terribly old-fashioned block letters on the screen.)

The pilot begins, like most episodes of TV these days, not with our main characters, but with the crime/case of the week. This one seems to involve aliens, which is strange, because I didn’t think we were going to get the alien stuff in the first episode. Which just goes to show my memory cannot be trusted.

And this is a weird one, for sure, because if you see a light and a crazy dude coming at you in the middle of the woods, wouldn’t you like… I don’t know, scream? Try to run away? I know scary movies have shown that neither of those things actually work, but it’s still better than doing nothing. Isn’t it? Our victim does neither, and next thing we know, she’s dead. (This was to be expected, the show IS called The X-Files, yes, but you still need a body to investigate a crime, even in a show about the paranormal. The only thing to note about this particular death is that the actress looks remarkably like Scully, which I guess could be a coincidence, but, knowing Chris Carter, it probably wasn’t.)

The last words before the black screen and our first glimpse of the logo are: “It’s happening again, isn’t it?” and if that doesn’t just describe the whole premise of the show, I don’t know what does.

As I said before, we get our first X-Files logo, but not the music yet, and I never thought I’d miss music so much. It’s like The X-Files is not The X-Files without the song.

We meet Scully first, and I’m really glad she just walks around for ten seconds or so, because is her outfit throwing me off. I know fashion has changed A LOT in the past twenty years, but WHY would she wear that? It’s like three sizes too big for her, and I’m not even sure it was fashionable in 1993. Sinister Dude Number 1 (Blevins, I think), makes me forget all about fashion. And there’s Cancer Man in the corner, wow. I’d forgotten he was there from the beginning. Sinister Dude Number 2 (No idea about HIS name) gets straight to the point. We want you to spy on this Mulder guy. Of course, he uses other words, but I’m here to translate for you. They want her to use science to prove that Mulder is just a crazy dude chasing ghosts.

Scully shows a little personality, but just as we probably would in her position, she seems to agree. She makes a little joke, tries to please the bosses. It’s kind of cute, really, especially knowing what we know. In fact, the only thing this conversation doesn’t make clear is why exactly, if they’re going to all the trouble of assigning Mulder a partner, don’t they just… shut down the X-Files and reassign Mulder. Are they worried he won’t let it go? Are they using him for something? Why exactly do they want him there and, at the same time, don’t want him to be able to do his job? We won’t get an answer anytime soon, but it’s a good subplot and a nice introduction to the idea that something much bigger is going on here. And we’re only like, five minutes into the show.

Scully heads for Mulder’s office, and she looks thrilled with her assignment. Really, truly happy.

NOT.

And Mulder’s office, in case you didn’t know, is in the basement. We don’t know why. We also have no idea why someone is walking around casually as if this wasn’t, you know, the BASEMENT. Scully walks in and there’s sass from Mulder, a look of “What the hell did I get into?” from Scully and the POSTER, THE POSTER, but I can’t process because I’m drowning in feels. He’s being awfully flirty, and she looks very nice in this scene. I remember thinking, many years later, that I could have been imagining all the sexual tension, but oh, no, first scene, and it’s obvious that these actors have too much chemistry; these characters will never be just friends.

I also find it hilarious that, even before they knew they’d be assigned together, they both knew about the other. Although, either Mulder was a stalker, or he did know he was getting a partner, because, reading her thesis… a bit much, Mulder. A BIT MUCH.

Mulder is quick to explain the case in the craziest way possible. Scully tries to counteract with some common sense. It doesn’t work. (It never, ever works). They’re going to have to check it out in person.

And I wouldn’t even bring up the airplane scene while they head to the middle of nowhere, except for this. WHAT THE HELL IS THE UPHOLSTERY ON THOSE AIRPLANE SEATS?
My eyes will never recover.

Also, Scully’s clothing choices are becoming more and more suspect.

But seeing these two together makes my heart soar. I’ve missed them more than I can explain. I want to bang their heads together and make them, well, bang. NOW. Not in like, seven years or so. Sadly, I don’t have that power. I’m here to enjoy the ride. And the ride takes us to Bellefleur, Oregon, where, before the case is even mentioned, we’ve already experienced a funky radio and a car that mysteriously stops and then re-starts again without anyone kicking it or even attempting to pop the hood.

Don’t ever say The X-Files holds anything back.

Mulder responds, in typical Mulder fashion, by getting out the can of red spray paint that an always prepared FBI agent keeps in the trunk and marking the spot. He doesn’t offer much of an explanation to his way of thinking, and it’s weird, but Scully doesn’t say much, so we ignore it too. Weird show about weird things, so he gets a free pass, right? On with the case. First order of business: let’s exhume some people! Oh, and let’s use some clearly inept crews so they drop the casket and we are forced to run after it. The body inside looks like an alien, which, of course, considering this is only the first episode probably means it’s not.

Or maybe I’m wrong. I can’t remember Scully examining the body, though this is what she always does. I have a vague recollection of her finding an implant, but that’s about it. It’s like I’m watching this episode for the very first time!

Other things I don’t remember: The fact that this all seems to lead back to the Class of '89, the fact that guy whose body they exhumed confessed to the two other murders, the fact that he was in a psychiatric hospital or the fact that there are two more of his classmates in that hospital. Not that it really matters much in the grand scheme of things, Peggy O’Dell is in a wheelchair and Billy Miles is comatose, so it’s not like they have anything to do with what’s going on, right?

This is a very good pilot, and I’ll tell you why: it’s a good example of everything the show would end up developing. There’s Mulder/Scully banter, even a little bit of sexual tension, there’s tons of things we cannot explain, there’s shadowy government figures, and there are aliens! There’s also our favorite agents running into danger, because, of course, who needs common sense in a show like this?

Despite the fact that I know this is just the first episode, and our main characters are not about to get killed right away, I feel the sudden need to inform my TV screen that this is how scary movies usually start, with people running into dark forests. Not that they find much other than some strange ash on the ground, and creepy detective dude with a gun. Why is it that small town detectives are always painted as creepy?

When they’re driving away, a flash of very bad special effects light envelops them RIGHT on the spot the car malfunctioned earlier. When they open their eyes, nine minutes have disappeared, a fact that Mulder says, it’s commonly reported by aby alien abductees.

Cue disbelief.

Back in the motel, Scully examines the evidence, Mulder goes for a run, and then, well… it’s time for our gratuitous shot of the female lead half naked! Scully is, apparently, one of those people who has to take a shower before bed. (Like me!). Except, unlike me, she has to walk very slowly to the bathroom, drop her robe and stand in front of the mirror in her underwear, because … well, because.

Despite the fact that I said this episode was a very good example of what this show would turn out to be, it does tend to focus on Gillian Anderson’s beauty a little more than subsequent episodes will. I don’t remember many instances of our leading lady in underwear, and our leading lady in underwear running into Mulder’s room because she’s scared the two marks on her back are the same as the marks found in the victims is a one-off thing. (Although, to be honest, I would have been freaked out too. The marks are IDENTICAL. I have no idea how Mulder can just look at them and dismiss them as mosquito bites.) He does take his sweet time looking, though. The sexual tension is alive and well.

The scene afterwards is the scene that made us, well, shippers. It’s the reason why people write fanfic. In fact, if it weren’t for the fact that fanfic wasn’t as popular back in the day, I would have said this was Chris Carter’s evil plan all along.

Scully hugs Mulder after he reassures her that the marks on her backs are simply mosquito bites, and then, there’s a pause, and next thing we know, Scully is laying down in Mulder’s bed, covered up in a blanket as he sits on the floor and tells her about his sister.

Even I wrote a fanfic about what happens in between.

(I think.)

They get interrupted (OF COURSE) by a strange call (OF COURSE) and they rush out to find that Peggy O’Dell, previously wheel-chair bound Peggy O’Dell, mind you, has been killed by a car while WALKING AROUND. Which, a) Don’t walk around deserted roads at night, and b) DON’T WALK AROUND DESERTED ROADS AT NIGHT. Especially when you’re not even supposed to be able to walk.

Afterwards, they come back to the motel to find the whole thing is on fire and their evidence has been destroyed. Which, of course. Like I said, this is THE WHOLE SERIES IN A NUTSHELL. Good God. How did I watch nine years of them getting so close to proving something only to have all their evidence stolen?

Oh, yes, because of Mulder and Scully.

Moving on: Teresa, the daughter of the medical examiner who did the autopsies for the original victims wants to talk to them, and imagine that, she’s also from the Class of '89! She tells them she’s awoken in the middle of the woods several times, and that she needs their help, only for her father and creepy detective to show up and take her away.

With nothing left to do, Mulder and Scully decided to return to the cemetery, to, I presume, pick up a shovel and try to exhume the other bodies by themselves. Someone got there first, however. And it’s raining. Hard. Because that just makes the whole conversation more romantic, or something. Mulder has it all figured out -- it was Billy Miles! Scully laughs, but hey, at this point, what other option is there? Scully wants an explanation as much as Mulder does; she just needs proof. Her problem never is that she doesn’t want to believe, it’s that she isn’t as predisposed to believing everything as Mulder is.

They go back to the hospital to try to find their proof, and it’s there, in the form of sediment in Billy Miles’s feet, which... hard to get your feet dirty if you’re in a coma, and all. Scully takes a sample of the dirt and wants to go back to the forest to take another sample to compare it to, because, lost evidence and all.

Back in the woods, creepy detective Miles, who, by the way, is Billy’s father’s, finds his son offering up Teresa as a sacrifice to the alien gods or something, and there’s a bright light, and the alien gods must reject the sacrifice or something, because Teresa is unharmed, Billy comes back to himself and the weird marks in his back disappear. Mulder is there to witness it all. Scully is obviously not. That would be too easy.

Later, we watch Billy Miles explaining it all, under hypnosis. The aliens abducted them as punishment for partying in the forest (or because they were there, and it was easy, who knows?) and killed them when the tests they were performing failed. But, no proof, no dice, as Sinister Dude Number 1 informs Scully. Except Scully HAS proof. She had the implant on her pocket all along!

Of course, once she TURNS in the evidence, it’s lost forever. They even have a big evidence room for all their super-secret things, which seems like a really bad idea if you ask me, why keep ALL YOUR EVIDENCE in one place? But this is just the pilot, so they get a break. Especially when you consider what a good episode this is.

We even get a few things that will become standard X-Files trivia questions later on to close out the episode: Mulder calling Scully at 11:21 and the standard “Scully? It’s me” that’ll be used by both of them so much in the series that I even had it as a ringtone at one point.

And, that’s the end of this week’s journey into memory lane. It’s a brilliant pilot that touches upon all the elements that’ll become iconic in later years, and, even on re-watch, it’s an entertaining hour of television.

Quote of the episode:
Scully: Wait a minute, you're saying that time disappeared. Time can't just disappear. It's a universal invariant! 
Mulder: Not in this zip code.
Scary moment of the episode:
There are scarier episodes, of course, but the moment when Scully finds the marks on her back wins it for me this week. Later on we’ll get to be scared about what happens on this show, this time, we’re scared for Scully.

Mulder/Scully moment of the episode: 
There’s many, many to choose from, but I’ll go with semi-naked Scully throwing herself in Mulder’s arms. It’s a scary situation, and though they’ve only just met, this sows the seeds of trust that’ll remain.

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