Season 9, Episode 1
Director: Kim Manners
Writer: Chris Carter, Frank Spotnitz
Follmer: I hope it wasn’t presumptuous of me. I ordered you a martini.
Reyes: No, the presumption is all mine.
– Bone-headed exchange between Monica Reyes (Annabeth Gish) and Brad Follmer (Cary Elwes)
That “witty” repartee is one of the head-smackingly bad moments that welcome X-Files viewers to a ninth season of the beloved series. That, in and of itself, is horrible, but I’m willing to forgive cheesy dialogue here and there. It’s when that exchange is immediately followed up with this sequel:
Follmer: I had this crazy notion that you were avoiding me.
Reyes: Maybe I was trying to avoid myself.
This is a sign folks. This is a sign of the end…
“Nothing Important Happened Today” begins with Carl Wormus, a water-obsessed EPA official who meets Lucy Lawless’s (Xena: Warrior Princess) Shannon McMahon in a bar. After some really awful pickup lines (dialogue?), he seems to too-easily pick her up. On his way to her house, she directs him toward a bridge where she forces his car into the river below. There, she holds him underwater until he drowns. After a new, Mulder-free opening sequence, Monica Reyes and Brad Follmer (The Princess Bride‘s Cary Elwes joining the series as a regular) meet cute as they apparently have a sexual past, surprising given their complete lack of chemistry. Follmer apparently has something against Reyes’ participation on the X-files and against Doggett. He is later seen meeting in secret with Deputy Director Alvin Kersh.
After learning that security tapes show no evidence of Season Eight’s action-packed finale, Doggett seeks out Mulder for assistance, only to find his apartment completely vacant. Aware of Mulder’s departure but unaware of his location, Scully is reluctant to assist, steadfastly focused on the job of taking care of newborn William. When William apparently causes his mobile to spin with the power of his crying, Scully reconsiders and asks Doggett to continue his investigation into the super solider program where everyone else wants him to quit, including Skinner. In the end of this part one of two episodes, Doggett and Skinner break into water treatment facility and discover evidence of a mutation-inducing chemical called chloramine. As Kersh’s pet Follmer arrives on-scene, Doggett hides in a filtration tank only to be pulled underwater by the mysterious Shannon McMahon.
Where did we go so very wrong so very fast? Only yesterday, I’d praised the series with an action-packed and engaging finale to its eighth season, but, even with director Kim Manners’ involvement, the ninth season premiere truly feels D.O.A. The biggest mistake is diving so deeply into series mythology so quickly without effectively setting up any tangible sense of dread. Lawless’s McMahon is set up to be the female version of homicidal super solder Billy Miles, but she’s not nearly as threatening (a huge indication that something is wrong here) or as interesting. She hulks through the episode in a similar manner, and one hopes that the conclusion to this story arc would give her more to do.
Further damaging the episode is the dramatic shift in character behaviors, particularly the now terrified of everything Agent Scully. I understand she’s a new mother, and she’s probably not sleeping a great deal. But she is a shell of her former self and only resembles the Scully people have come to respect when she performs an unnecessary autopsy. Even worse is Skinner’s status as a neutered Assistant Director. In the end of the episode, he stands idly by as Doggett does all of the digging, warning Doggett to hurry in a panicky, decidedly un-authoritative voice that is unbecoming of the Skinner who brilliantly murdered Alex Krycek. With Doggett perpetually confused and Reyes spouting nonsensical dialogue born out of bad romantic comedies, you have to wonder how series creator Chris Carter and producer Frank Spotnitz – both of whom have written great episodes individually – botched this season opening so badly. You have to wonder if (given its original airdate of November 11, 2001) the events of September 11 somehow changed their original direction.
On the plus side, the episode did grace us with this image of Lucy Lawless which I will leave you with now…