Wednesday, March 7, 2018

REVIEW: FOX's 'The X-Files' and '9-1-1' (March 7)

Various FOX reviews for March 7, 2018:

The X-Files - Episode 11.08 "Familiar"
9-1-1 - Episode 1.08 "Karma's A Bitch"

In 2018, it's impossible to watch every scripted show out there. There are over 450 of them. It's even more impossible to even provide adequate coverage of some of them. Great shows slip through the cracks. Some shows take awhile to figure themselves out. So as a way for me to provide more coverage, I'll just be writing some paragraph reviews of the various shows that aired new episodes on FOX for March 7, 2018. Enjoy!

The X-Files - "Familiar"
Written by Benjamin Van Allen and directed by Holly Dale

This feels like a classic episode of the show that doesn't feel the need to overindulge on nostalgia. Of course, it's a familiar concept and execution as well. At this point in the show's run, it's much more effective when it is whimsical. The best episodes of the season where the ones that no longer took this world seriously. This episode does the opposite of that. It's a horror-themed hour about witchcraft and mass hysteria in small town USA. And yet, it's still strangely compelling. Again, it's not the best of what the show can do. It still plays on the strengths of what worked in the 1990s instead of trying to adapt things differently for modern audiences. But it's still wonderfully tense and propulsive as well. It does feel the need to rush through a lot of plot. Plus, it never seems like Mulder and Scully are all that important to the investigation. First, it's strange that they are even investigating this case when there is no evidence upfront about any kind of supernatural phenomena. That all happens pretty bluntly after the fact with Mulder just repeatedly saying it's witchcraft until that basically comes true. But it's still scary. There's also no way that Mr. Chuckleteeth would ever be the star of a TV show targeted at preschoolers. The knockoff of the Teletubbies isn't all that great or memorable either. But it does enough to disarm the viewer through a familiar trick of taking something apparently innocent and turning it into the most terrifying thing in the story. This hour is very effective at that. Plus, it's pretty thrilling to watch just how quickly things escalate in this community. This is an hour defined by death. So many people turn up dead in this community. Everyone important to the case basically dies by the conclusion. That's Mulder and Scully's signal that they no longer need to be here investigating. And yet, the brutality on display pushes the show into new boundaries as well. Yes, it doesn't quite have the guts to deliver an important message about police brutality and the abuse of power. That's basically just a very minor detail here as the plot is barreling through so much additional story. However, that doesn't take away from the feeling that The X-Files can still be scary when it aspires to be. B+

9-1-1 - "Karma's A Bitch"
Written by Kristen Reidel and directed by Barbara Brown

This episode bluntly states its main theme a ridiculous amount of times. The phrase "karma's a bitch" is uttered at least half a dozen times. The writing really wants to make it clear to the audience that this is a shift where the first responders are dealing with people who get what's coming to them because they are all awful people. And yes, it is fun to see justice be served in this way - like a domestic abuser getting shot by the bullet from his wife's gun he left in the tree, a big game hunter being mauled by a tiger after he inadvertently allows it to escape from the zoo, an obnoxious gym manager dying from a tanning machine malfunction after wanting to leave his dog in a locked vehicle and a woman who steals boxes from doorsteps breaking her leg while making her escape. The effectiveness of any episode of this show is based on how ridiculously campy and over-the-top the individual calls are. It seems the show is much more confident with them now while the audience is aware of the exact kind of show they are watching. And yet, there is still the tonal whiplash that comes from the amount of dramatic storytelling happening with these characters as well. Abby only appears as the voice of 9-1-1. But big developments are happening elsewhere. Athena has to accept that her marriage is over and it's toxic to continue propping up the fantasy for the rest of the world. Hen learns she is being sued for custody before she can confess to her wife about sleeping with her ex. But most jarring is the sudden development that Bobby is actually suicidal. That's a turn played for seriousness. It's such a huge issue that needs to be dealt with carefully. It can't just be casually introduced and discarded. But here, the show continues to lift Bobby up by saying he's still being given the opportunities to save lives in this world. It's a rush for him on the job in a way that makes an immediate impact on both himself and the person he is saving. But now, he's finding a new way to save lives by donating blood thanks to a special genetic makeup. It's nice to see him continue to rely on these friendships at work. But it's still so tonally different from what really works that it feels weird too. B