X-Files Flashback: ‘all things’

all things

Season 7, Episode 17
Director: Gillian Anderson
Writer: Gillian Anderson

After David Duchovny and William B. Davis had their turn, The X-Files finally allowed star Gillian Anderson to write and direct her own episode. The result, “all things,” is a quiet, meditative treatise on longing, regret, and letting go. It feels dramatically different from any other episode of the series because Anderson’s directorial touches are more artistic and less centered on flashy gimmicks. Ultimately, “all things” isn’t a fully successful episode because the script seems to have forgotten the purpose of The X-Files, and it has significant issues with tone and pacing. Still, it’s an interesting failure, far better than the worst episodes of the series.

The episode begins in the present day with Scully getting dressed while Mulder sleeps in his bed – the insinuation being they’ve slept together. We then flash back to Scully being reintroduced to Dr. Daniel Waterston, her former professor with whom she had an affair, who has been hospitalized for a critical heart condition. During all of this, Mulder pursues mystical crop circles and the works of Colleen Azar, a type of holistic healer. Scully meets Azar and eventually visits her, looking for information and a possible cure for Waterston. Scully brings Azar and a healer to the hospital which eventually cures Waterston. After turning down Waterston’s offer for a rekindled affair, she has an existential conversation with Mulder but falls asleep on the sofa, platonically returning us to the opening of the episode.

“all things” has much going for it. It’s kind of shocking that it took seven years – SEVEN YEARS – for a woman to direct an episode of The X-Files. Anderson’s approach, as I mentioned above, is dramatically different from other episodes. There’s a lot going on with music here and Anderson’s interest in / obsession with clicks, ticks, and drum beats all working to create a pattern of musical harmony. The sound design works to accentuate the Eastern philosophy themes and practices that run through the episode. I also quite liked Anderson’s performance, giving Scully a deeper, more emotional, presence within the episode. The problem with the episode lies with its script. This case isn’t an X-File. It completely lacks any sense of the supernatural, aliens, Black Oil, or whatever. Granted, that’s probably a good thing, but Anderson and team have failed to fill that void with anything particularly interesting. As a result, the script slightly slogs along with airy speeches and pretentious monologues. It works against the atmosphere that Anderson the director was able to achieve, which is disappointing because she showed some real talent behind the camera. Except for the scene where she walks down the street in slow-mo. That was ill advised.

“all things” is a failure, but it’s the kind of failure that only talented people can make. Anderson probably reached too high with such a complicated and ambitious script that attempted to tackle a host of Serious Issues. I was with the first half of the episode with its mildly surprising opening and its freaky Eastern-centered rhythms, but the weight of the episode crushes all entertainment value. Given the intense focus on Scully recently, it’s no wonder Duchovny left the show. The X-Files is quickly becoming a show that forgets its magic is in the chemistry between the two leads.

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