Dinara Tengri

Dinara Tengri

20 July 2018

Big Site News (I'm Moving!)

What's up guys! It's been over a week since I got back from Montreal and I can't believe it's all over now. But life goes on, and I sure have a lot of stuff to cross off my list before the end of summer.

First, there's Campnanowrimo, which I do every July (and April). I took this opportunity to finish the first draft of my new novel.

I'm also moving! No, I don't mean like to a new city (or Canada). I'm moving this blog to Wordpress. I've been wanting and planning to switch to Wordpress for a long time, and now finally seems like the right time.

Nothing will change. I will be posting book reviews, discussions, and an occasional Top Ten- list. But I will be doing it on a platform that will allow me to be more creative, and to grow as a writer. I want this to eventually become an author website, with that author being... well, me.

The official date for the move will be announced as soon as I'll finish building my Wordpress site and transporting (most of) the content from here to there.


14 July 2018

Montreal Comic Con 2018

I'm back!

Last Saturday, I attended the Montreal Comic Con with a friend of mine. I left for Canada on Friday and I came back last Wednesday.

This was my first trip across the Atlantic Ocean, and my first vacation abroad in several years.

First things first, Montreal is a beautiful city that looks very European which helped me a great deal with my homesickness. My friend and I stayed there for four days, and after the Con, all we did was roam the city, see the sights, and eat poutiné.

And what trip to a new city would be complete without a visit to a bookstore? Montreal has an abundance of bookstores, and we chose Indigo, Canada's biggest book and gift store. My main mission was to find a French copy of Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451. Well, mission accomplished and I now have this book is five languages, thank you very much. I may also have gone on a little shopping spree (the books were on sale, though).

But what I liked the most about Montreal was the people. Friendly, polite and always ready to lend a tired tourist a helping hand.

Which brings me to the main event: the Montreal Comic Con. My fellow X-phile and I had been planning this trip for months. We bought a couple of VIP tickets so that we didn't have to wait in line (except for the VIP line), and on the 7th of July we marched down to the Palais des Congrés de Montréal.

Basically, we went there to meet the cast of The X-Files. Originally, David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson were supposed to appear, but Anderson cancelled, so Mitch Pileggi and William B. Davis were invited along with Duchovny, instead.

Well, I met them all for the first time. There were pictures, autographs, the whole shebang. The most surreal moment for me was asking David Duchovny a question at the panel that night.

Perhaps the best part about the Con was - again - the people. Connecting with fans online is one thing but meeting the real people behind those Youtube channels and those discussion posts is something else entirely. The energy is invigorating, the enthusiasm is contagious. You meet people from all over the world who share your passion, and are happy to meet you. Just like on that Buffy fan-fest last year, I felt like I was a part of a bigger world. Still do.

After the panel we went to the X-Files Improv with Laurice and Walt of the Superimprovgal, which was the great way to end that day.

So that was my first North American comic con. I had great time, and I'm very grateful to everyone who made this experience possible.

Now that I'm back to good old Sweden, I expect to come back to my regularly scheduled programming.

Thank you and have a great weekend!

PS. if you want more pictures from the trip check out my Instagram account, @dinaratengri. And if you want more pictures from the Con, check out my other account, @dr.scullys.files

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1 July 2018

Moonwalk (Book Review)

When I was a little girl, my favourite singer of all time was Michael Jackson. For my fifth birthday, I requested my aunt who worked at the radio to play one of MJ: s songs for me. That song may or may not have been The Way You Make Me Feel but this is where my memory deceives me. 

What I remember vividly is me and my friend going to the kitchen because we were too shy in the company of all the relatives and then dancing our faces off. This is the earliest memory I have of myself dancing.

I'm a 90’s kid and Michael Jackson with his dazzling outfits, his electrifying dance moves, and his in-you-face, larger-than-life stage persona became one of the symbols of my own childhood, and my introduction to the Western pop culture.

June 25th, 2009 is a day that has long ago made its way into the history books. The news of the sudden passing of the King of Pop literally broke the Internet, and the media circus that followed, not to mention the legal charges against MJ: s personal physician (which ultimately resulted in his conviction), as well as the obligatory conspiracy theories went of for years after his death.

But underneath all the headlines and speculations there was a multinational army of loving and grieving fans, and for many – myself included – MJ: s passing was a beginning of a rediscovery of his music, his art, and his enigmatic person.

In the months that followed, I had watched all the interviews that YouTube had to offer back then, bought the albums I didn’t already have, and saw some of his most iconic concerts caught on tape. That was also when I read two of Michael’s own books – Dancing the Dream which is an anthology of poems, and personal reflections and Moonwalk – his 1988, New York Times bestselling autobiography.

When I first read Moonwalk, I was imbued with this sense of awe that I was reading something that Michael had written himself. It was like he was speaking directly to his readers. Interviews, and documentaries are one thing, but a written word is something else entirely. This was Michael using his own words to talk about things he actually wanted to talk about.

That’s why I was a little disappointed when I read that Michael didn’t actually “write” Moonwalk. In the afterword to the 2009 edition, Shaye Areheart recalls working on Moonwalk with Michael and with Jackie Onassis. The idea was to write an autobiography, but after a lot of false starts, they finally decided that Areheart would ask questions and Michael would then record his answers on tape. Areheart would then transcribe the tapes, and the two of them would be editing the scripts together.

Thus, Moonwalk isn’t an autobiography in the traditional sense, but a result of a four-year-long collaboration between Michael Jackson and Shaye Areheart. I really recommend reading this afterword. Not only does Areheart give a first-hand account of how this book came to be but he also shares personal stories of working with Michael. It’s a very personal and most importantly non-sensationalist story.

What you need to know before getting into this book is that this isn’t a tell-all. Michael’s idea behind this book was not slander or sensationalism. This is Michael, having been abused by the tabloid media for decades, finally coming out to tell his story on his own terms.

Sure, the revelation that Michael had grown up in an abusive household stirred up quite a ruckus when the book came out, but that was just Michael telling the truth.

According to Areheart, Michael was a little gun-shy sharing his story with the world like this. He wanted to make Moonwalk happen, but there were certain parts of his life that he wanted to keep to himself. And I think this ambivalence shows in the final product. In telling his story, Michael is being honest but guarded. For instance, he doesn’t talk about his vitiligo. That was his choice. Just like he would say years later to Oprah Winfrey in that famous interview, “this is my medical history and it’s personal”.

Saying that privacy was important to Michael is like saying that the short film for Smooth Criminal is a visual masterpiece – it’s a gross understatement. Being deprived of this most basic of human rights from a young age, Michael went to great lengths to keep what little privacy he had as an adult. He recalls, for instance, how his father would charge young fangirls money to let them watch Michael and his brothers sleep in their hotel rooms. Michael always emphasized his right to keep certain facts to himself. And as fans we should all respect that.

Like I said, this book isn’t a tell-all. It is, however, a unique and intimate look at Michael’s own life and at the showbiz world that he had been a part of since he could sing and dance. At its heart, Moonwalk is about what Michael knew and did best – music. It’s not the personal revelations or the celebrities that take up the biggest part of the book, it’s the music. The idea and the inspiration behind some of his most iconic songs, the work and the time put in the songwriting process, and the little technical details that are alien to us laymen – that’s what this book is about.

Music is also Moonwalk’s greatest strength. You can read between the pages how much Michael loved creating and performing, and how much of his own heart and soul he put in his own work.

I love Moonwalk. It's a book that tells you so much about what kind of man and musician Michael was, and at the same time leaves you wanting more. 

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24 June 2018

Ender's Game (Book Review)

Before there was Katniss Everdeen to topple an nightmarish government, even before there was Harry Potter to stop an evil wizard, there was Ender Wiggin, who had the gruelling task of saving the Earth from aliens.

In his hit novel Ender's Game, Orson Scott Card tells us about a world where “buggers” – an insectoid alien race had twice tried to invade Earth, nearly destroying our civilization. The “bugger” wars would change not only the world politics and technological progress but the way of life of every family everywhere.

The political map has been re-drawn between two superpowers – North America and Russia, with a fragile peace kept between them out of fear of a third bugger invasion. Card later revised the novel due to the collapse of Soviet Union 1991 to give it a more updated political profile.

The fear of a third invasion not only keeps the superpowers from blowing each other up, but it also serves as means to maintain total control of the civilians, as the military has the monopoly on deciding how many children each family may have. In their search for the strategic genius who will win the “bugger” wars once and for all, the government monitors every child since they’re born. The children that prove to be especially gifted and especially cruel are then recruited into Battle School, where they play strategic games and learn space battles via simulations.

Ender is a “third”, a term used as a pejorative. Nobody wants a third in their family, and Ender’s parents were assigned to produce one, since their two eldest children didn’t meet the military’s requirements. Peter – the older brother is a sadistic psychopath who tortures Ender and their sister Valentine on a daily basis, so he’s out. Valentine is too compassionate to be taught to kill. This leaves Ender, and the grown-ups tell him in no uncertain terms that they have bet all their resources on him, so he better not let them down. The kid is six.

Eventually, Ender accepts the offer to go to Battle School, not so much because he wants to but because he needs to get away from Peter. Little does he know is that whatever sadistic games his brother used to play, it was child’s play compared to what’s waiting for him in Battle School.
Only six years old, not only does Ender have to master the game and meet the expectations the whole world has put on him, but he must navigate the most competitive and brutal institution in the world, as the other children are envious of him, and the adults are going out of their way to test his abilities and his sanity. Ender is quick to learn who the real enemy is. 

Meanwhile, back on Earth, Peter and Valentine – the other two child prodigies have begun to understand that the world order is shifting, and they try their hand at shaping public opinion in their struggle to maintain world peace and secure their place (well, Peter’s place) at the top of the food chain.

Ender’s Game is considered by many to be the first YA science fiction novel, and it’s here that we can find a lot of characteristics that have since become popular and, dare I say tired tropes in YA dystopia. We have the young savior, a.k.a. the Chosen One; the antagonistic adults as well as the imbecile parents. We have the oppressive totalitarian society. And games. Lots and lots of games, simulations, and exciting challenges that balance out the dark tone and the violence.

Ender’s Game was originally a short story that Card wrote after having read Isaac Asimov’s Foundation trilogy (Hari Seldon, ftw!). He later adapted it to a full-length novel which was published in 1985. As he states I his foreword for the 1991 edition, the sole purpose of Ender’s Game was to be a set-up for another book he really wanted to write, titled Speaker for the Dead which he would write and publish in 1986.

For a book that only exists to be a set-up for another book, Ender’s Game can perfectly well stand on its own and not be a part of a franchise. Beneath the pretty straightforward plot lies a complex story, and a good-hearted message.

Since its publication, Ender’s Game has won a whole bunch of literary awards, gained a cult following, and is even a recommended reading on the U.S. Marine Corps Professional Reading List, something I find ironic considering that the book’s ultimate message is that of peace and diplomacy.

Despite all the critical success, Ender’s Game has also received its fair share of criticism, specifically for its depiction of violence among children as well as glorification of violence itself. I do not agree with that line of criticism at all. Whatever violence exists in the book it’s there to illustrate the harsh reality of the world that Ender is a part of. The most infected and destructive conflict the prepubescent Messiah is facing is the one with his own dark side. His strive to suppress his own bloodthirst and prove that he is not like his brother Peter is what drives Ender’s story forward. 

According to Card himself, the book also received a lot of criticism from social workers and other child care professionals who didn't find Card’s depiction of gifted children realistic claiming that his characters don’t act like children at all. In his foreword, Card responds to the critics, saying that:

“Children are a perpetual self-renewing underclass, helpless to escape from the decisions of adults until they become adults themselves.”.

He felt that it was important for him to depict children that saw themselves as well-rounded individuals and not the way adults perceive children.

Card also cites a number of fan letters from some of his younger readers telling him how much they appreciated finding characters they could recognize themselves in, and to finally find an author who “gets it”.

I was not a child prodigy, nor did I ever know one, so I cannot speak as to the authenticity of Card’s portrayal of child prodigies. But I think that anyone who has ever been a child and had to navigate the post-apocalyptic jungle that is secondary school will recognize themselves in Ender and in his peers. Boy genius or not, Ender’s struggles did resonate with the child in me, and that’s the reason why I keep coming back to YA. 

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16 June 2018

Summer Reading

Schoolz out for the summer!

For the next two months, I won't have to learn anything new about odontology, medicine, or the physical properties of dental cements. Also, I can finally read for fun again.

I mentioned in one of my previous posts that I have fallen out of love with reading, and at that time it really did feel that way. Now, I feel like I'm getting my bookworm mojo back, and I'm already working on my next book review.

I have also assembled a short and preliminary list of books I want to read this summer. Some of them are new to me, but there are a few re-reads as well. 

27693272Endymion (Hyperion Cantos, #3)

I bought my copy of The House of Binding Thorns on a whim because I loved the cover. Also, I almost never read anything by French authors, and I'd like to change that.

Endymion is, of course, the third book in the Hyperion Cantos series. The first two books completely blew me away. Honestly, not a day goes by that I don't think about those stories. 

Who Goes There?38447

The two re-reads this season will be Who Goes There? and The Handmaid's Tale. I hated Campbell's sci fi horror the first time I read it, and I really want to give it a second chance. As for Margaret Atwood's dystopian classic, I feel like this is a world that needs to be revisited at least once. Maybe I'll even watch the TV version.


And finally, some non-fiction. As anyone who studies full time will know how stressful and exasperating student life can be. Taking care of yourself and making the time to reflect on your own process is important just to stay afloat. So, I came across a book in my school library, titled Bli Klar I Tid Och Må Bra På Vägen, which roughly translates into Finish on Time and Feel Good in the Process, which is a handbook for grad students on how to, well, finish their work on time and feel good in the process. Granted, I am not a grad student, but I still want to check it out.

Surrounded by Idiots is a pop psychology bestseller that tackles the many intricacies of communication at home, in the workplace, and other settings where you just can't escape the company of your fellow man. Being a pop psychology buff myself, I'm curious to give this book a try.

That about does it this time. I'm glad to be back from my little hiatus, and excited to be reading again. 


5 May 2018

The X-Files: My Struggle IV Review (Spoilers)

First, a little announcement. I will be going to the Montreal Comic Con this July. David Duchovny, William B. Davis and Pileggi will be among the guests. As well as James Marsters, a.k.a. Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. To say that I'm excited is an understatement. This will be my first visit to North America, and my first real Comic Con. I still haven't decided if I'm going to cosplay or just go as myself. 

And now to the review. It's the grand finale, baby! 

Just like the previous three obligatory mythology episodes, "My Struggle IV" opens with a monologue by one of the main characters. It's William's turn to tell his story. In Ghouli, we were introduced to a complicated young man who had trouble controlling his superpowers. And here we learn through flashbacks just how much trouble William's superpowers have caused him and his loved ones.

William is now on the run from the law, wrongfully accused for murdering his adopted parents. He's having visions of an upcoming apocalypse, and of the man who is behind it all. Having been in hiding for months, he now wants to find the Cigarette Smoking man so that he can find out the truth about himself and his role in his biological father's plans.

The episode proper begins at the FBI headquarters, were Kersh is chewing out Skinner for allowing Mulder come out in the media with the statement about the Spartan virus and an upcoming pandemic. Kersh tells Skinner that he closes the X-files, and orders him to take Mulder and Scully's badges. Seriously, the Bureau has shut down the X-files so many times, it has become a running joke.

 I want to like Kersh, but his inconsistency makes it difficult for me to see anything but a straw antagonist. He has shown glimpses of character development on a few occasions, but here his only role is to be a nuisance for our heroes, an obstacle they choose to bypass anyway. Still, I don't completely disagree with his reasoning. As the Deputy Director of the FBI he cannot afford panic on the streets because of some allegations made by Spooky Mulder.

Except that it wasn't Mulder who has come out with this information. It was Scully. Scully, who has maintained that her visions are being sent to her by William, still believes the pandemic to be a real threat. Desperate, she calls Ted O'Malley, the right wing online webcaster we were introduced to in the previous season and tells him to run this story.

Skinner tells Scully about Kersh's decision, but Scully couldn’t care less. She had a vision of Mulder dying at the hands of Cancerman, and she needs Skinner to help find him. Just then, Cancerman gives him a call, threatening to unleash the Spartan virus if Skinner won't deliver him William. 

In a flashback, Mulder and Scully get a call from Monica Reyes who tells them that their son is being held in Mr. Y: s warehouse in Maryland. Scully is skeptical, but Mulder can't miss this opportunity, and off he goes on his silver Mustang.

Mulder sneaks his into the warehouse where he spies what looks like a spacecraft. He is then surrounded by several armed guards and in a shootout that is left conveniently off-screen, kills them all. He then bursts into Mr. Y: s office, demanding to see his son. Mr. Y. doesn't have William, and he scolds Mulder for not being able to kill his father for the good of humanity. He then reaches for his gun, but Mulder draws first and shoots Mr. Y. in the head. So much for the new and exciting Big Bad.

The rest of the episode is a hot mess that consists mostly of car chases as all the concerned parties are trying to find William, and of William doing some impressive parkour to escape Erika Price’s private army. 

William, who up to this point has been good at staying under the radar of both the Syndicate, Cancerman and his parents, has made a few choices that immediately attracted all the parties' attention to him. He used his psychic powers to win a suspicious number of lotteries and then returned to Norfolk to persuade his ex-girlfriends to come with him.

Mulder follows William to Norfolk and begs his ex, Brianna to tell him where his son is. The highlight of this little scene is Brianna's distrusting friend, played by Duchovny's real-life daughter, West Duchovny.

Mulder admits to Brianna that William is his son, prompting her to give up his location. Mulder then finds William in a motel, and this is where we get one of the highlights of the entire season. The father and son reunion is bittersweet to say the least, and I didn't expect this scene to affect me as much as it did.

"I held you when you were a baby." says Mulder as he is drawing his son into a long overdue embrace, taking us back the final shot of season eight, with the happy parents holding their newborn son. This is the moment that the previous three seasons have been leading up to. This is also the first time I realized William's significance in Mulder's own character arc.

Despite Mulder's reassurance, William is keeping him at a distance, understandably so. He knows from his visions and from the events of "Ghouli" that Mulder means well, but he also believes that neither Mulder nor his biological mother can protect him from Cancerman or from himself.

What Mulder doesn't know is that Erika Price and her private army have been following him all this time. They burst into the motel room surrounding Mulder and William. But then in an intense and at the same time hilarious scene, William uses his powers to make the bad guys explode in a firework of blood and guts. Spontaneous human combustion, indeed. He then dashes off again, leaving Mulder alone in the blood-stained room.

Scully and Skinner are still racing to find Mulder before Cancerman does. With Skinner at the wheel, and Scully wearing a beige winter coat, this scene gave me a flashback to when the two of them were searching for Mulder's rogue ass in I Want to Believe. Of course, in that movie Skinner didn't have a bomb to drop on Scully. We see the guilt on the Assistant Director's face as he's about to tell her the hard truth about her son's conception.

Scully takes the news surprisingly well, or maybe she's just focused on finding Mulder alive. Which she does, as by an amazingly convenient coincidence, she spots his silver Mustang on the road.

Scully goes after William, but Mulder pleads with her to let him go, telling her that this is something that he wants, and that he knows that she loves him. "How do you know that?”, Scully asks. Just then, the real Mulder appears, and William in the guise of Mulder runs off again. Another chase ensues, this time through the dark twisted corridors of the factory.

Cancerman and Reyes have made it to factory, too, where they're confronted by Skinner. What follows is a truly WTF-scene that I will never forgive Chris Carter for. Monica, who's at wheel, tries to put the car in reverse to save hers and Skinner's life, but Cancerman takes control of the car, and floors the pedal, in an attempt to run Skinner over. Skinner pulls out his gun and shoots Monica in the head. He should have shot CSM instead (for so many reasons), because in the next instant Cancerman crushes him with his car.

Cancerman then confronts Mulder at the waterfront, and after a charged exchange, shoots his first-born son in the head. Just as Mulder's lifeless body plummets into the water, the real Mulder appears, and in a fit of rage, shoots his father several times before pushing him into the water. It’s an intense and chilling scene that immediately took me back to all those moments when Mulder held his biological father at gun point but never having the balls or the callousness to pull the trigger. I love the rage on Mulder's face, and the dumb surprise on the CSM: s face as the realization hits him.

Scully then catches up to Mulder, and he tells her that Cancerman has killed their son. Mulder is on a verge of a breakdown, but Scully tells him that William was never their son, but an experiment created in a lab.

"What am I if not a father?" Mulder says, to which Scully replies that he is a father. She then takes his hand and places it on her stomach, revealing to all of us that, yes, she's pregnant again. The two then embrace, and as they're standing there, comforting each other, the camera cuts to the dark water, and we see William resurfacing with a bullet hole in his head, but alive.

Where does one begin untangling this ball of abandoned plot lines and tearful embraces? In short, "My Struggle IV" is a hot mess. A whole season arc is destroyed with a few gunshots, key characters are killed off, as the story is pinballing between moments of brilliance and steaming piles of alien poop.

The first time I watched this episode, I did it as a fan. And by the time the end credits rolled, I felt cheated. The reason I felt cheated was because it felt like all of the show – all the fantastic and amazing stories, twenty-five years of them – have been nullified, neutralized by this one episode. All those years, all those arcs, all those theories, all those hopes and questions – it has all led to this?

And had I written this review immediately after watching the episode, my reaction would have been akin to that of Mulder's at the end of "The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat".

The biggest problem with this episode in my book is the pacing. The season has been overall well-balanced, and the stories evenly paced, and here we are, in the final episode that has all these questions to answer and all the complicated subplots to resolve, and most of the time is spent on car chases and parkour. It's all very messy, frantic, and incoherent. 

The structural problems of not just this episode but of all the mythology entries in the past two seasons (except for "Ghouli") may have to do with the awkward way that mythology has been shoehorned into this revival. 

In the original show, there were between five and ten mythology episodes per season, which gave the storylines plenty of time to develop at their own pace. The conspiracies unfolded slowly, and the payoffs were usually satisfying. 

In contrast, the new mythology has a total of five episodes, one of which has turned out to be a dream sequence. In hindsight, the last two seasons would have been much more consistent and well-balanced had Carter just dropped the mythology altogether and focused instead on telling new and exciting standalones. I have always felt that the mythology has outlived itself sometime in season six anyway. But this is Carter's show and the alien/government mythology is an essential part of it. 

Well, nuts to that, because the masterminds behind this new conspiracy are killed off like a couple of faceless minions. Is there someone else to continue their work? Who knows! It's the finale. Neither we will know if Cancerman really did have the Spartan virus, and if Scully's visions were in fact precognitive.

If there's a lesson to be learnt here it's that you shouldn't start a huge story arc if you know you won't have the time for the a proper payoff.

How much more coherent the mythology episodes would have been if Carter instead chose to make it entirely about William. Speaking of which, we need to talk about William.   

William's life is a tragedy, and the bitter irony is that Scully had given him up to protect him, but by making that hard choice she basically doomed him. Okay, so he didn't die, but that last shot of him peering out of the water spying on his (sort of) parents doesn't inspire hope. On the contrary, it makes him look like one of the many monsters that Scully and Mulder had come across. What is he going to do now? Who is he going to turn to? Where is Professor X when you need him?

One very observant fan on Facebook noted that this ending has been foreshadowed in "The Post-Modern Prometheus" from season five. Whether or not this was intentional, the parallels between these two episodes are haunting. So haunting that it inspired me to make this cheesy little edit for Instagram.

Regardless of whether you think William’s character was treated poorly, one question at least got answered: yes, William was an experiment, a human-alien hybrid created by the Cancerman. And yes, that seemingly invincible reptiloid is William's biological father.

The revelation is icky, and it just feels wrong, but as I said in my review for "My Struggle III", it's not unwarranted, and the twist fits well within the overarching theme of the mythology, that of the immorally powerful government abusing innocent people - mainly women - for their own gain.

So, I didn't have a problem with this twist, so much as I was grossed out by it. But as I was watching the finale, I realized the inherent mistake of this plot twist, something I had only joked about before. Mulder has always believed himself to be William’s father, and in a way, he built his identity around his fatherhood, but now it turns out that William was not his son, but his half-brother. Though not incestuous per se, this family constellation is still wrong, and I feel like Carter basically wrote himself into a corner with this one. Was shooting William the only way out of that corner?

William's character has been sold short, just like he was in season nine. Carter is notorious for dangling hopeful mysteries like that for years and then giving the audience the middle finger. In season seven it was finally revealed that Samantha - the driving force behind Mulder's work and the reason behind so many heartbreaks had been dead for years, long before Mulder started searching for her. And here, after three seasons of build-up the pay-off gets shot in head and thrown into the cold dark river.

I couldn’t understand why Scully didn't have a shock reaction when William died. She raised him for a whole year and then spent the next sixteen years torturing herself for her choice, and now she's okay with him dying because she has a new baby instead? It felt wrong, and out of character for Dana Scully. But maybe, it was because Scully already had her goodbye in the morgue in "Ghouli". Maybe. Some other fans also suggested that at that particular moment, Scully was just being strong for Mulder. I don't disagree with that, given how hard Mulder took it all.

Throughout the series, I have almost always sided with Scully, and to me personally it was Scully's story that has been more interesting and relatable. This season has done something that none of the previous seasons have - it made me feel for Mulder, and truly empathize with him. Mulder is the vulnerable hero, and he's not ashamed of it. In season ten, he had to be strong for Scully when dealing with loss of William, but we saw that he, too, was suffering. And in this season, Mulder's grief over what could have been and his longing to have a family are open and naked, mostly thanks to Duchovny's performance, but also because of the character's history.

Mulder lost his entire family - his sister, his mother, and his adopted father. Sure, he still has his half-brother Jeffrey, but they don't exactly send each other Christmas cards. Scully is all the family he has left. And when Mulder says, "What am I if not a father?" this question is loaded with seventeen years of regret and hope.

But Mulder is a father, at least according to Scully and Chris Carter. Scully is pregnant. But she also does have alien DNA. What does this mean for the baby? And for the world? I guess we'll never know. At first, this revelation felt an insult to William's head injury. It was as if Scully was saying, "William turned out wrong, but who cares, he has a new, untainted baby on the way!".

The truth is, Scully's pregnancy has been hinted at throughout this whole season, although all those clues have completely gone over my head, like Mulder and Scully staying (and doing it) at St. Rachel's Motel, in "Plus One" or Scully holding her hand over her flat belly in "Followers". It isn't just the visual clues that have foreshadowed this revelation, but the stories themselves. Mulder and Scully's conversation and their two-night stand in "Plus One" as well their intimate moment in the church in "Nothing Lasts Forever" (which is the episode's only redeeming quality).

Chris Carter broke Scully and Mulder up prior to season ten to recapture that chemistry and the sexual tension that has been spicing up the original show. This season has been all about Mulder and Scully trying to find their way back to each other. In the church, Scully admits that it was her fears that drove her away from Mulder. Whatever the reasons for their initial break-up, they never stopped loving each other, and their bond is still strong.

I'm not a shipper. If anything, I was hoping that Carter wouldn’t go for a big Hollywood ending with the two beautiful heroes sharing a passionate kiss as the fireworks go off in the background. And he didn't. Instead of a passionate kiss, our heroes share a comforting embrace, holding on to each other like a lifebuoy, and instead of fireworks, there is only the black night sky. And a tiny fetus in Scully's once barren uterus.

In a way, the recycled miracle pregnancy plot twist is a reward for all the tragedies and heartbreaks our heroes have endured. It's a clunky compromise, not entirely a happy ending, but one that at least gives our battered heroes some hope. Does it make sense? Who cares, it's the finale.

So here we are. No justice for Monica. Skinner may or may not be dead. And William is Deadpool. So many questions left unanswered. But maybe Reggie was right. Maybe its wasn't about finding the answers. Maybe it was about giving these amazing characters a new life and exploring how they have changed since we last saw them.

As far as season finales go, this one was pretty bad. This isn't the "Anasazi" or "Existence". But is it better than "The Truth"? Both the original series finale, and "My Struggle IV" have Mulder and Scully facing an uncertain future. And in both episodes, Cancerman gets what he deserves. This is were the similarities end, but I can't decide if I prefer the lazy exposition of "The Truth" or the frantic car chases and parkour of "My Struggle IV". 

The new series finale is far more ambitious than "The Truth" was, and it at least tries to answer some of the most burning questions. It's also more hopeful than that old finale, what with the new baby and Mulder not facing a death penalty again. On the other hand, "The Truth" felt like a more balanced, self-contained story, and it did a better job and wrapping most of the subplots. 
 In the time when more and more cancelled TV-shows get revived, and nostalgia is the new black, these last two seasons of The X-Files have been more than just about recapturing former glory. Rather, this is the result of years of devoted fans nagging and begging the Fox executives to give us more stories. Not because we wanted to revel in nostalgia, but because we knew that there were more stories to tell. And even though nostalgia has been heavily used in the marketing of the revival, the show itself proved to be fresh and relevant. As Mulder put it, "you still have some scoot in your boot!".

Bildresultat för the x files promo season 1

Well, that's it. Ten episodes. Ten reviews. I loved season eleven. I loved watching it, I loved writing about it. What happens next? I have a long term plan for a complete X-Files episode guide, starting from Pilot, all the way to the season ten, including the movies. But that will take a very long time to make. 

Other than that, I don't have any plans for this blog. Honestly, I don't really know what to do with this blog. I fell out of love with writing book reviews, so we'll just have to wait and see. Anyway, the finals are coming up, and I won't have the time to blog much anyway. Let's just say, this blog is going on a hiatus. 

Thank you for sticking with me, and for allowing me to nerd out on a regular basis. 

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17 April 2018

The X-Files: Nothing Lasts Forever (Spoiler Rant Review)

So, we've come to this: the bottom of the barrel. Season ten had "Babylon". Season eleven has "Nothing Lasts Forever". Luckily, neither does this episode.

Written by Karen Nielsen and directed by the show veteran James Wong, this second to last X-file takes us to the Bronx where a series of what looks like ritualistic murders attracts the attention of our heroes. The victims were surgeons who were harvesting organs when they were staked through the heart by a young woman – Juliet, who was quoting from a biblical psalm. The woman then left the harvested organs at the door of a nearby hospital with a note that said, "I will repay". 

Turns out, the surgeons were part of a cult of cannibals who have been prolonging their lives and fixing their physical deformities by consuming human flesh and blood. One of the cult's latest recruits is Juliet’s sister, Olivia, and now we know the cause behind Juliet’s crusade. 

All the mystery is thrown out the window once we know who the bad guys are, and all we can do is wait until Scully and Mulder make the right connections, ask the right questions, and find the cult. In the meantime, we are treated to a series of boring, gory and poorly acted scenes of the cult lead by a discount Goldie Hawn from the movie Death Becomes Her.

I have a hole in my stomach!

Her second in command is Dr. Luvenis. He is the mastermind behind the gruesome beautifying technique and he has surgically conjoined himself to a young woman so that he can feed on her bone marrow to prolong his own life.

Discount Goldie gets mad at him for not providing her with organs, kills his bone marrow donor and eats her, prompting the good doctor to find another donor. He picks Olivia.

Some more stuff happens. Mulder and Scully go to a church, which happens to be the same church that Juliet is a part of. They find Juliet who tells them that she will avenge her sister.

Finally, they locate the cult in a rundown apartment building and as they are questioning the deranged cult leader they are attacked by her disciples. Scully gets thrown into an elevator shaft (I wonder if she dies?), and Mulder faces off with Dr. Luvenis who threatens to kill Olivia. Just then Vigilante Juliet springs out of the shadows killing both the mad scientist and Discount Goldie. Mulder finds Scully who has landed safely into a pile of garbage. Mulder tells her that she stinks. 

Scully, you smell bad!

Juliet then tells the agents that she has accepted her fate and as long as her sister is safe she is okay with spending the rest of her life behind bars.

The episode ends on an optimistic note in the same church with Scully and Mulder discussing their relationship and the possibility of them getting back together. Scully the whispers something into Mulder's ear. We can't hear her words, but that's what the fan theories are for.

I'm in love with Assistant Director Walter Skinner!

In the season two episode, "Our Town", Mulder and Scully's investigation of a missing person's case leads them to a cult of cannibals who prolong their lives by consuming human flesh and brains.

In, "Nothing Lasts Forever" Mulder and Scully's murder investigation leads them to a cult of cannibals who prolong their lives by consuming human flesh and blood. Both episodes are dark and pessimistic, but where "Our Town" downplays the gore and focuses on creating an atmosphere of paranoia that leaves you with a bitter aftertaste long after you finished the episode, "Nothing Lasts Forever" throws all subtlety and atmosphere out the elevator shaft, and doubles down on the gore and the pornographic violence. The result is a cheap and gimmicky episode that easily earns its spot among the worst episodes of the whole series.

I'm not saying that this gore fest is entirely without merit. Unlike "Followers", this episode does have a place in the season arc and it does its fair share in progressing the arc as well. But the main story as well as the writing itself successfully bury all ambition under this steaming pile of brains and intestines.

For instance, there is the age theme that runs throughout the whole season. Our heroes are now middle-aged, meaning that they have to redefine their place on the X-files, but also their own relationship. This has been one of my favourite themes of the season mostly because it makes our characters more relatable and helps to place them in this brave new world.

In this episode, Nielsen takes the theme of ageing to a new extreme. Discount Goldie and her vampire cult take to gruesome means in their attempt to cheat time and be beautiful. And on the other side of the spectrum you have Mulder who has been prescribed progressive lenses, and Scully who has been dealing with her own fears of getting older since "Plus One". But unlike the cult members, our heroes don't let their age define them, and they accept their wrinkles and their progressive lenses as a natural part of life.

In her interview with Den of Geek, Nielsen said that she wanted to explore the topic of beauty and aging specifically within the context of Hollywood. 

"I think being alone in society you just feel the pressures of appearance. We live in such a consumerist society and everything is just about how we look because that's how we can prey on people's insecurities and sell things. I'm susceptible to it just like the majority of people—not just women, but people—are in the world. And if you're a woman and an actress it's like quadruple all of that. If you're over thirty you almost become a write-off, which is horrible."

Discount Goldie is a former TV actress and she becomes the embodiment of this unhealthy obsession Hollywood has with youth and beauty. I get what Nielsen was trying to say. Unfortunately, the gratuitous violence and the cheesy acting make it difficult for me to take the message seriously. Especially considering that there are movies and TV shows that have done a far better job exploring this theme.

The thesis that aging is a natural part of life and that trying to reverse it violates the laws of nature (or God) is painfully on the nose. To add insult to injury, the villains in this one are so evil that there is no way we can sympathize with them or even understand their plight.

Another theme that Nielsen wanted to delve into was that of religion, cults and faith.

[...] when I wanted to touch on Scully's religion in that respect, Glen [Morgan] brought up the angle of cults because they're sort of like a really messed up religion. That's where it started from, where Glen came in with the angle and I came it from character. Then you mix in a little James Wong and some American Horror Story for good measure and you get something special."

So, this episode also tries to explain why Scully - a skeptic and scientist - believes in God. It's an inside joke among fans by now, but a question that is not without value. Scully's dichotomy raises many interesting questions about faith; about the personal experience of faith, and the indoctrination in organized religion. Is Scully's plight that of a person who is trying to reconcile the truths she has been indoctrinated into with the truths she is learning on her own?

To this day we haven't had a story that successfully explained how Scully can be a devout Catholic and a woman of science. I'm not saying that the two are mutually exclusive, but the fact is, I have had some interesting discussions with other fans about this topic that offered far more insight than "Nothing Lasts Forever".

I don't know if this episode was supposed to start a discussion about faith vs. science, but if that is the case, then the story offers no valid arguments and no wisdom one way or the other so the whole thing falls flat on its ass. The whole thing is muddled and there is no real conclusion. No lessons to be learnt. Nothing to take away from this experience. 

The reason this exploration of cults and religion fails is because these questions are explored through the characters, and these characters are not good. Vigilante Juliet is a Catholic girl who is using God to justify her violence, and the ageist cannibals use "science" to prolong their lives. Both sides are murdering other people so any argument you can make in favour of religion or science loses all meaning because these people do terrible things. And the very fact that Juliet is using God to justify murder makes her more dangerous than this cult.

Of course, the questions of faith serve as a set up for something that will have a pay-off in the season finale so I'm going to save those moments for when I'll be talking about the finale.  

This episode doesn’t even feel like an X-File. It’s like American Horror Story meets Arrow, and Mulder and Scully are there for some reason. How's that for a fanfic idea?

Dr. Luvenis, you have failed my sister!

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