Saturday, May 21, 2011

Scully's Turn To Get Doped Up/Mulder's Turn To Have A Family Member In Peril:"Wetwired"/"Talitha Cumi!"

The Good: Scary, Clever, Moments of character, Moments of acting
The Bad: "Wetwired" is a bit predictable, "Talitha Cumi" is rather expository
The Basics: Two good episode of The X-Files are presented with "Wetwired" and "Talitha Cumi," but we could have lived with the first episode being swapped with "Quagmire!"

As The X-Files wrapped up its third season, I was in college and finally becoming a fan of the show. As a result, I distinctly remember watching the third season finale, "Talitha Cumi" and being excited about it. So when it was released on video, I also remember picking it right up and being pretty excited about that, too. Rewatching the video of "Wetwired" and "Talitha Cumi" reminds me how timeless television series' can actually endure well after the decade they helped define. The X-Files had some serious issues in its later seasons, especially in the "mythology" stories. But here at the end of the third season . . . wow.

"Wetwired" finds Mulder and Scully investigating a series of murders where a man, in a crazed state, claims he was actually attacking a Serbian war criminal. Disturbed by the correlation between what the man has been watching on television and who he thinks he was killing, Mulder and Scully begin to investigate his video collection when another murder occurs, this time a woman thinking her husband was having an affair that she sees out her window while doing dishes (in fact, the old woman blows away her neighbor, whose dog was laying on him in his hammock!).

As the investigation persists, Scully begins to hear a telephone ringing and she becomes paranoid about Mulder. Convinced he is betraying her to the Cigarette-Smoking Man, Scully fires off some shots at Mulder and goes AWOL, a series of events that convinces Mulder of what the Lone Gunmen suspect; that someone is using a sub-channel on the television monitors to agitate people into killing!

"Talitha Cumi" opens with a man freaking out in a fast food restaurant and shooting up several people there before he is shot by police. By the time Mulder and Scully arrive on the scene, though, there are no wounded and the man who went on the spree claims to have been touched by god, who healed him. The agents attempt to corroborate his story and are disturbed to discover that the man who healed him with his touch disappeared and appears to be able to take on multiple forms.

The hunt for Jeremiah Smith, the man with the miraculous healing power, continues when Mulder is informed that his mother has had a stroke while at the Rhode Island cottage the family owned. He is presented by X with information that the Cigarette-Smoking Man was present moments before Mrs. Mulder's collapse and that the Cigarette-Smoking Man had come to the house looking for something, something Mulder becomes obsessed with finding, while Scully tries to work out who and what Jeremiah Smith truly is!

"Wetwired" is a tough sell to die-hard fans of The X-Files if for no other reason than in the second season finale, Mulder's water is contaminated with LSD much the same way that the various killers' televisions are plagued by the added aggression pattern creator. We've seen the paranoia, hallucinations and strung-out quality as a result of influence by the shadowy conspiracy before and frankly it's not much different with Scully as the victim as opposed to Mulder.

Still, it is a clever and frightening idea that is well-developed by Mat Beck who worked on The X-Files as the visual effects supervisor. He gets the voice and feel of the characters and show right in his script and were it not for the almost identical elements in "Anasazi" (reviewed here!), "Wetwired" might be a knock-it-out-of-the-park episode. As it is, it is light on character - though it does reinforce well the relationship between Mulder and Scully and returns Scully to her mother's care, which works well for the character. Outside the fact that the plot is essentially recycled the only real problem is that when Mulder calls Mrs. Scully, she doesn't ream him out about losing her daughter yet again. After all, poor Scully got the crap kicked out of her numerous times in the second season and she was abducted twice in that season. Now, about a year and a half later, Mulder calls up Mrs. Scully to say "yeah, I lost your daughter" and she doesn't go ape on him (especially after her other daughter was shot and killed because of the work Mulder and Scully do) . . . come on!

"Talitha Cumi," on the other hand, is both a much tighter and much more nebulous episode. How is that possible? First, it is a mythology episode that is laying down important information for the viewer in virtually every scene. It is in this episode that we (along with Mulder) learn that Mulder's mother and the Cigarette-Smoking Man have known each other for years, which set off years of rumors that Mulder might be the Cigarette-Smoking Man's son. We learn that the Alien Bounty hunter is part of a race that is here to colonize the Earth. We also learn that the colonization plan seems to be largely what the big secret conspiracy is all about. And when the Alien Bounty Hunter reappears, it's pretty cool.

In "Talitha Cumi," the viewer also learns that the race represented by Jeremiah Smith and the Alien Bounty Hunter seems to have more powers than simply the ability to shapechange along humanoid lines. They can heal and there is the implication in the scenes between Smith and the Cigarette-Smoking Man that they might have some form of telepathy or sight that allows them to see within a person. It is the scenes between the Cigarette-Smoking Man and Jeremiah Smith, as the shapechanger takes on the appearance of Mulder's father and Deep Throat, that the episode takes on a remarkably nebulous tone. The characters talk in code, alluding to plans that are not made explicit. This adds an air of realism to the dialogue (those in the know would not need to spell it all out) but is problematic to viewers who are being run over with the sheer amount of information packed into the expository dialogue.

"Talitha Cumi" is by no means a perfect season finale, either. There is a scene wherein Mulder and X get into a pretty violent fight and while there is some believability to Skinner - a former Marine - holding his own with the shadowy operative, that X doesn't succeed in completely shutting Mulder down is unbelievable.

That said, it does set up a number of threads that take years to pay off and it holds up remarkably well over multiple viewings, making for a decent episode to return to again and again.

On video, "Wetwired" and "Talitha Cumi" include a bonus feature, an interview with Chris Carter that spells out a number of behind-the-scenes details on the making of the two episodes and it is a good way to add value to these video tapes even now.

Fans of The X-Files will love "Talitha Cumi," despite its flaws, but fans of science fiction, horror, or general thrillers, will probably get more out of "Wetwired," which has a good premise and whose real flaw is that premise has (essentially) already been explored on The X-Files before.

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

"Wetwired" - 5/10
"Talitha Cumi" - 7.5/10
VHS - 6/10

For other television episode or season reviews, please click here to visit my index page!

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