The X Files Revisited: 6.14 Monday
The X Files ran for nine seasons and two movies, charting the efforts of Agents Mulder and Scully in their search for the unexplained. And then in 2016, it returned for six new episodes, a mix of mythology and case of the week stories that brought Mulder and Scully back the FBI. From the brilliant Mulder & Scully Meet the Were-Monster to the frantic mythology cliff-hanger in My Struggle II, it was largely viewed as a success and there are hopes that season 10 is just the first of more. In the lead up to the revival, The Digital Fix reviewed the best and most significant episodes of the first 100 episodes in the season's run, from the pilot episode all the way through to the 100th episode Unusual Suspects. Now we're going to continue that run, picking key episodes from the second half of the show - and two movies – and the latest episode sees The X Files do its own unique spin on Groundhog Day...
Everyone loves Groundhog Day (or at least I haven't found someone who doesn't). Part of that is Bill Murray and his amazing comic acting talents but of lot of it is down to seeing the same day play over and over and over again and the crazy alternate situations he finds himself in. While any film would be immediately compared to that 90's classic, it did allow TV shows to explore the idea of a character trapped in an endless repeating day over and over again. While shows like Buffy The Vampire Slayer used moments in its episodes, both The X Files and Supernatural went full hog with episodes that embraced the craziness of that theme - with hilarious results. Is it coincidence that Kim Manners directed both episodes and Supernatural's one was set on an endlessly repeating Tuesday? Perhaps not...
It's the second episode after Mulder and Scully are reassigned back to the X Files, but still not technically an X File (that would start with the following Arcadia). The pre-title sequence is enticing enough as Scully holds a bleeding Mulder in a bank during a robbery, while Skinner waits anxiously with the SWAT team outside. As they move in, the bank robber flicks a switch, Scully screams but it is too late. The bomb explodes, Mulder and Scully die...roll the title sequence. What follows we assume is the lead up to those events and for a good ten minutes it is not apparently obvious that the characters are in a Groundhog Day scenario. As an audience member, you're left guessing just how they survive that explosion and it is only after those events replay and the camera cuts to the delivery of a newspaper thrown at Mulder's apartment door in the same manner as the post-titles scene that it clicks into place. Mulder and Scully are going to die over and over again.
Monday admittedly isn't as funny as Supernatural's entry but it balances comedy and drama exceedingly well (it is certainly not as heavy as Doctor Who's magnificent Heaven Sent which also sort of emplyoyed a Groundhog Day-style in its final twist). The comedy is well played, particularly Mulder waking up each Monday morning. The effects of Morris Fletcher's actions from earlier season six-two parter Dreamland meant Mulder ended up with a surprise bedroom in his apartment with a water bed and a mirrored ceiling. He's obviously embraced the madness (he even suggests that it might have been a 'gift' from someone) but the waterbed makes its final appearance in the series as Mulder wakes up to find it has leaked through to the downstairs apartment.
The electrics have been blown, Mulder's phone is dead, his alarm clock hasn't gone off and his neighbour is berating him down the phone as he desperately tries to plug the leak. It's a brilliant comic-performance from David Duchovny as he trips, falls, hurts himself and finds his day going from bad to worse. Even when he gets to the office, he finds that his pay cheque (which is literally a cheque!) needs to be cashed before it bounces in order to pay his landlord for the damage. After trying to tell Scully what happened (I love her repeated "when did you get a water bed?") he heads off to the bank and gets caught up in the robbery. Scully goes searching for him after the world's most boring meeting drags on without him, gets caught in the action, the bomb goes off and they die. Again. And again. And again.
It's an episode that gets away with a lot because of the comic nature of the story (and season six on a whole). Just why Skinner would have ordered Mulder and Scully to attend a meeting on crime statistics that a) results in the decision that they have no idea what the statistics mean from future crime and b) has nothing to do with the X Files is beyond me. Monday morning punishment perhaps?
The real drama though is in poor Pam, the girlfriend of the bank robber that blows himself up that is the only person aware of what is actually happening. At this point (more than 50 days?) she has almost resigned herself to the fact that she is trapped in this ever repeating scenario. Carrie Hamilton plays Pam as a woman beaten down, desperate and without hope. She has obviously tried to change the outcomes; she knows Skinner's name, she has tried to drug her boyfriend, she has had numerous conversations with Mulder as he enters the bank and she even goes to the FBI to intercept Scully in one scenario. But it all ends the same. The ultimate tragedy is that she needs to die in order for everyone else to live.
There is a real sense of heightened drama as Mulder mutters "he's got a bomb." over and over again. Somehow that sticks in his head and he is finally able to change the events at play, bringing Pam into the bank before her boyfriend Bernard can detonate the bomb. The fact that he accidentally shoots her is a dark twist but you can't help but feel that it is a bittersweet victory for Pam who finally gets to end the repeating nightmare.
Monday is one of the most highly rated episodes in the show's history and another proof that season six is actually one of the best seasons, despite the general lacklustre perception of it. It is always fun to see our heroes die over and over again, trying desperately to change things and always ending up meeting the same fate. It is an episode that perfectly balances comedy and drama and is just as fun on rewatch after all these years...