Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Mulder Gets A Faith Refill And Wanders The Sewers In "Little Green Men" / "The Host!"

The Good: "Little Green Men" has decent moments of character
The Bad: "The Host" is a very average "monster of the week" episode.
The Basics: A fair episode and a good one make for an average video with "Little Green Men" and "The Host" from The X-Files.

The X-Files had a first season that was plagued - when one watches it in order - by episodes that are too close to one another in terms of the theme or paranormal phenomenon being explored. Episodes like "Ghost In The Machine," "Born Again" and "Roland" all involve dead people who were killed for some form of personal or corporate gain possessing others to finish off their loose ends. There is a pretty decent shortage of conspiracy mythology episodes and there are even surprisingly few "monster of the week" stories.

The second season begins with the X-files shut down, as a result of their investigation in "The Erlenmeyer Flask" (reviewed here!). The first two episodes of the season deal with the fallout of that episode, with the season premiere finding Mulder in need of a faith refill and the second episode doing nothing terribly noteworthy other than increasing the stature of Assistant Director Skinner and introducing the idea of X, Mulder's new friend at the FBI.

In "Little Green Men," Mulder and Scully have been separated and reassigned as a result of their investigations into the X-files. Scully becomes worried about Mulder, who appears increasingly despondent while working on the most banal wiretapping assignment. Shortly after meeting with Scully, Mulder is contacted by Senator Mattheson, Mulder's champion in Congress. Mattheson has evidence that an extraterrestrial signal has been intercepted by one of the radio telescopes in Puerto Rico.

Mulder goes rogue to retrieve the evidence of the signal, abandoning his post at the FBI. Assistant Director Skinner and the Cigarette Smoking Man attempt to locate Mulder, using Scully. Scully manages for find Mulder and as she pursues him to Puerto Rico, Mulder has a close encounter . . .

In "The Host," Assistant Director Skinner sends Mulder to Newark, NJ when a dead body is found in the sewers. Convinced it is a standard crime syndicate body dump, Mulder returns to D.C. irritated to discover that Skinner wants the case handled in a serious fashion. Scully, distressed over Mulder's reaction to the case, volunteers to assist him by performing an autopsy. When a Newark sewer worker is attacked while making a repair to a sewer line, Mulder becomes intrigued about what might have done it.

While Mulder investigates the attack, Scully finds a flukeworm in her autopsy. Mulder soon hypothesizes that there is a giant flukeworm killing people and is soon found to be correct, much to Scully's amazement. Apprehending the creature is only part of the process and Mulder is forced to deal with the political implications of the find when Skinner calls him up for review and the creature is transported for prosecution.

Skinner walks a fine line in these two episodes between casting off the influence of the Cigarette Smoking Man and acknowledging that he is a pawn in a larger scheme. Mulder's interactions with him tend to be defiant declarations that if the X-files were still being investigated, there would be a lot less blood on everyone's hands. These scenes tend to trend toward the melodramatic, especially in the way Mulder expresses his defiance and anger toward Skinner. On the other hand, these scenes give actor Mitch Pileggi the opportunity to stretch and lend some presence to a role that was seen once and mentioned one other time in the first season.

"Little Green Men" is both a conspiracy/alien episode and a fairly substantial character examination of Fox Mulder. Disturbed by the mundane assignments he has been placed on, Mulder becomes despondent and the feeling of the weight of the months that have passed between the prior season's finale and the beginning of the first episode is well-portayed. Mulder is realistically disenchanted and beginning to question the veracity of his own memories and beliefs. Senator Mattheson makes for an intriguing on-camera ally for Mulder to become a reasonable supporter.

Unfortunately, "The Host," viewed multiple times over several years, comes across now as a very simple idea that is played out far too long. Fortunately, Christ Carter does not attempt to insult the viewer by keeping the question of what the killer is for too long. Unfortunately, once the flukeman is identified and caught, there are still two acts to complete and the bulk of them feels largely like filler. This makes it an unfortunate example of how weak a "creature of the week" piece can be on the show when the initial concept is a simple monster piece.

In both episodes, Scully is relegated to her medical role as she is now teaching FBI forensic medicine at Quantico. Part of the reason for Scully's character direction is that actress Gillian Anderson got pregnant near the end of the first season and she returned to working on The X-Files rather pregnant. Leading up to her being written out for part of the season, Anderson is relegated to a supporting role.

This leaves a lot for David Duchovny to do more or less on his own as Fox Mulder. He is physically active in both episodes and he keeps the pace of "Little Green Men" taut as a result. "The Host" is a lot of exposition and background plot work (in the two scenes with X, on the telephone), but Duchovny makes the best of it. Far better is "Little Green Men," where he must play Mulder exhausted and unsure of himself. Duchovny does more than just deliver lines written with melancholy, he transforms his posture into that of a more or less broken man and it works to sell the concept of the episode.

On VHS, both episodes feature behind the scenes notes by Chris Carter as part of the little bonus "A conversation with Chris Carter..." The information is very basic commentary on the episodes, but it is a nice touch.

Ultimately, though, "Little Green Men" is a necessary episode as far as plot and character, but "The Host" is a tough sell to anyone who isn't already a fan of The X-Files or science fiction television. As I am a fan of both, there is enough to come back to on this video.

[Given that VHS is a rapidly dying medium, a far better investment would be The X-Files - The Complete Second Season, reviewed here!
As well, those who already love The X-Files will find The X-Files - The Complete Series to be an even better buy and my review may be accessed by clicking here!
Thanks for reading!]

"Little Green Men" - 7/10
"The Host" - 5/10
VHS - 6/10

For other television episode and season reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2011, 2008 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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