About That X-Files Finale…

By  · Published on February 23rd, 2016

Welcome to Last Night on TV, our daily column that looks back at what happened on television the night before. If we’re going to stay up all night and watch TV, we might as well talk about it the next day.

Last night on TV, Alisha tries to stay calm while talking through the X-Files finale, Kevin has a good time with both 11.22.63 and The Magicians, and Neil catches up with Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. Plus we missed a few shows at the end of last week, so we’re including them today in a mega-update. You’ll find Christopher Campbell’s takes on The Amazing Race, Top Chef and Portlandia below.

The X-Files

Alisha Grauso: Watching the Season 10 finale of The X-Files has left me with one sad realization that I’ve been avoiding for as long as possible: Chris Carter has George Lucased his own creation. The X-Files has officially gone Star Wars prequels. It’s no coincidence that the two most poorly-received episodes of the revival, last night’s finale and the season premiere, were both written by Carter, who is clearly suffering from being too close to the source material. Too many ideas in his head that all jockey for time on the page, and the sloppiness of the premiere was in full display again last night. I still believe, but if I had to describe this season as briefly as possible, “inconsistent” is the only word that fits. And if I had to describe last night’s episode? “Flaming dumpster fire” just about covers it.

While the addition of Agents Miller and Einstein have been a bright spot this season, once again, “My Struggle II” inexplicably split Mulder and Scully up for too long in the episode, each chasing their own storylines. Scully is busy investigating an outbreak of what they call the Spartan virus, which is basically every nasty bug you can think of hitting you all at once – phase # whatever of Cigarette Smoking Man’s master plan for a population purge and world domination. Meanwhile, as the epidemic spreads throughout the world, Mulder is busy tracking down CSM himself, even as he, Miller, and Einstein are affected and start to deteriorate themselves. But not Scully. Why? Because it turns out her alien DNA – the very thing she once feared – is the key to survival and, in turn, saving the planet. A cool twist, to be sure, but it wasn’t enough to make up for the complete trainwreck of the episode. Nor did it make up for the fact that Chris Carter somehow still hasn’t figure out after ten seasons that the show works best when Mulder and Scully are working in tandem, not apart. It’s clear that they want to set up Miller and Einstein to take over the reins should the series get an eleventh season, but while Robbie Amell and Lauren Ambrose are charismatic, the series hasn’t given them enough to work with for fans to believe they could anchor the show on their own.

And we’re not even going to talk about Joel McHale’s conspiracy theory pundit, Tad O’Malley, suddenly reappearing from wherever he’d gone and picking up right where he left off as if he hadn’t just gone to ground out of fear the government would eliminate him. We’re just not, because there’s nothing to say about it other than “WTF.”

As it ended on a cliffhanger of the most maddening sort, one can expect it’s now up to FOX to determine whether or not to greenlight another season. And while I have no regrets about watching this season – X-phile for life here – if they do indeed get the go for season 11, it’s clear that the series needs to clean house and bring in some new voices, particularly in the writer’s room. With a new injection of blood writing scripts, and perhaps a new showrunner taking over from Carter, a new season could do what this one never quite managed to do: Remind fans of why The X-Files was one of the most influential shows on television. Because this season only teased us with what might have been.


Kevin Kelly: This episode is exactly why I both love and hate Stephen King books. Jake Epping/Amberson (the name he has adopted in the past), has abandoned his quest to try and save Kennedy and replaced it with trying to save one of his future students from having his family slaughtered and leaving him with brain damage.

However, as Al pointed out previously, the past has a way of pushing back. Which means James Franco gets shoved, both figuratively and literally, throughout this episode. Plus if you’re a parent or a meat eater, or if you’ve ever know anyone in an abusive relationship, there are some hard things to stomach in here.

The episode opens with little Harry Dunning on the run from three bullies who eventually catch him, toss his pants in the river, and drool spit onto his face. It’s cruel, and evil, but little Harry doesn’t fight back. He just gazes up at the blue sky, ignoring them and wishing for a better existence. But that doesn’t seem like it’s in the cards, as his father and mother are in the process of splitting up, and his father Frank (Josh Duhamel) is an asshole with a penchant for spousal abuse.

Jake finds a room to rent in town and tries to find ways to stop the horrific event he knows about from happening: he tries befriending Frank in a bar and drunkenly quoting James Agee’s “Let Us Now Praise Famous Men” to him, which ends with a brutal scene involving a sledgehammer and a calf. He tries telling Frank’s wife that she’s won a trip out of town to get her and the kids out of the house, but Frank finds out and assumes Jake is trying to sleep with her. He finally buys a gun and confronts Frank in the middle of the act, and it would appear that he has changed the past.

Now, a good story like this is the reason I love both Stephen King, and showrunner Bridget Carpenter. They’ve crafted a very strong story here, full of characters that seem as realistic as anyone you’ve ever met, and Duhamel is extremely good at playing a real son of a bitch. But that’s where the problem is. You see, there’s a “with Josh Duhamel” credit at the beginning of each episode, and with the tendency of the past to change in this show, I expect we might see him again.

Best line in this episode, when questioned about being in the service by husband of the couple he’s renting a room from, Jake tells him he served in Korea. Two tours. The man asks him, “Oh yeah? Yeah unit?” And Jake deadpans, “M.A.S.H. 4077th.”

The Magicians

Kevin Kelly: Ah, to be a student again. Classes, homework, having to get a tattoo in order to tether your body to the earth. At least, if you’re an astral projector like Penny, it’s all part of the coursework. We start with Quentin being slack-jawed about Penny apparently having gone to Fillory last time around, and he’s just shy of a tantrum over the fact that he didn’t get to go. Penny and Kady leave him to grump about it, and head off to bond over tats.

Meanwhile, Julia continues her power hungry quest for more spells, and heads back to the lowly hedge witch club where she was relegated after being booted out by Marina. But Marina has already gotten to them, and the doors are shut. Out of guilt, one of them tells Julia about another school, and she goes in search of it. She’s picked up an older woman as a stalker, however, and after confronting her she finds out her name is Hannah, and she’s in search of the same thing Julia is: more spells.

Back at Brakebills, Quentin is having some alone time when he realizes no one else is in the physical kid’s cottage. He tentatively looks around, tossing a textbook ahead of him to I don’t know, scare people away? Then he’s suddenly kidnapped at knifepoint by two masked women and marched outside. Well, don’t forget, this is college. Hazing time! The students are told they have to pass The Trials, which were designed to thin the heard and send students packing.

After Hannah slips Julia an iPhone full of spells, Julia decides to bring her into the safe house she’s set up, and the two of them start plotting how to steal Marina’s spells. However, to get past the warding spells on Marina’s club, they need someone on the inside. Turns out, Hannah can help. She fetches someone who turns out to be none other than, Kady. Turns out Hannah is Kady’s mother who “traded” Kady to Marina for cleaning up a massive magical mess that Hannah found herself in. That’s why she steals stuff from Brakebills and mules it to Marina.

Quentin and Penny manage to pass the first Trial, although their teammate who refused to cheat like they did immediately vanishes from the school. While the rest of the class revels in victory, Quentin continues pouting about Fillory. Margo drops by with a drink and… whoops she’s slipped him a mickey. When he wakes up, he’s in a forest where magic doesn’t work while Eliot sits at a fancy table nearby demanding that Quentin nab him a fish with a bow and arrow. Welcome to Trial #2.

After Kady reluctantly drops off a spell inside Marina’s place, Julia and Hannah team up and successfully steal her spellfiles. However, when they open them, there’s nothing inside except blank pages and a “Nice try!” note. But it’s not all innocuous. Blood starts spewing from Hannah’s orifices, and she’s dead in seconds. Holy shit.

Returning to Brakebills and the final Trial, Penny/Kady and Alice/Quentin have to be bound to each other, naked, with ropes. In order to get them to fall off, they have to come to terms with the truth in themselves. Penny reveals he’s falling in love with Kady, and his ropes drop. However, Kady tells him she’s been lying to him about caring about it, and her ropes drop. It takes Alice and Quentin forever to come to terms, but eventually their ropes drop and… they both turn into geese and join a V-formation the sky. Strangest ending to a television show ever.

Nerd note: the transforming into birds scene was one of my favorites in the novel. But that was because we were in Quentin’s head and it went into great detail about the transformation, thinking like a bird, living like a bird, etc. Sadly, we lose all that in the show.

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

Neil Miller: It’s been a few weeks since we’ve caught up with Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and its Golden Globe-winning phenom Rachel Bloom. The show is doing fine, as you know if you’ve been watching along. Rebecca (Bloom) continues to conjure crazy schemes to get closer to Josh Chan (Vincent Rodriguez III). This week saw plenty of that, including a lot of backroom dealings between Valencia and Greg in an attempt to thwart Rebecca’s NASA-level love schemes. It’s an interesting character progression, now that everyone else on the show can smell Rebecca’s crazy. The party bus, as we’ve come to find out, would not be her lowest point. This week’s episode, “Josh and I Work on a Case!” saw a new low with the appearance of Trent. Caught in yet another lie, Rebecca is exposed. Perhaps the most interesting part of all this is that there are 6 episodes left in the season. This show remains delightfully unpredictable, even though every episode is about essentially the same thing.

One nice bonus this week was the subplot about Darryl and White Josh. It’s not often that we see such a frank yet casual conversation about sexuality. It’s David Hull as White Josh that sells it. He’s not Gay Josh, because you wouldn’t call someone Straight Steve. Because one’s sexuality doesn’t define them wholesale (though I guess it’s a weird bit of hypocrisy, as he is called White Josh – I’m probably reading into that too deeply). The episode evolves toward Darryl realizing that he’s bisexual, or “both-sexual.” This is yet another example of The CW, as a network, giving its creatives freedom to push the envelope of both representation and thematic exploration. This show is creating a lot of humor out of these conversations, but it’s also dealing with them in a way that’s honest. And that’s important. For that, we should continue to applaud what has been and continues to be one of the most effortlessly entertaining new shows of the past year.

The Amazing Race

Christopher Campbell: Congratulations to Blair for being the first racer to totally butcher the pronunciation of a place they’re going: Cartagena. Yes, I watch The Amazing Race to make fun of the dummies. Isn’t that what we’re supposed to do? Doesn’t it make us feel better about ourselves to watch these lucky reality show contestants who get to travel around the world and do fun and thrilling challenges and focus on what they do wrong? Obviously we all can sit on our couches and say we’d have done the physical and mental feats better and faster. And definitely known that Rotterdam is not the same as Amsterdam and that Cartagena is said like “Cartahena” not “Cartajenah.”

Actually, I can tell you exactly where I first learned how to pronounce Cartagena: Romancing the Stone, which I watched a lot as a kid. And while I was thinking about the movie, because it’s my first and main association with the city, the first Roadblock just happens to be something even more specifically reminiscent of a scene where Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas dig through mud to find an emerald. The only thing missing from The Amazing Race’s version, which had members of the teams submerged in the healing mud of the volcano El Totumo trying to find emeralds, was the gem should have been hidden in a bunny statue, not a satchel. Oh well.

(By the way, a future season of the show should totally consist of teams of film critics and/or movie geeks who are sent to various iconic movie locations around the globe. Jerry Bruckheimer can have that idea for free if he lets my wife and me have a slot.)

Every season sees plenty of errors and mispronunciations and lapses in judgment, and really no team is ever completely safe from some sort of eventual embarrassment. But as I noted last week, it’s more on my mind this time that these racers are mainly people who are all about online culture and this competition might as well be literally unplugging them from the Matrix and throwing them into a dark, unknown real world. But the only real contrast to their regular lives that’s been addressed is Burnie Burns and Ashley admitting they’re talking more now that they’re not able to be on their smartphones all the time.

Not as tied to the idea of digital dwellers trying to navigate an analog world, though, was Cameron and Darius’s recognition at the Pit Stop that they may be book smart geniuses, but they’re no good at stuff like figuring out how to book a flight. You know the saying: good at blindfolded Rubik’s Cube, bad at life. I really thought they were goners, but fortunately another team made the bigger mistake of not keeping their cab close (the only blunder more famous for viewers of this show than the classic rule to never get involved in a land war in Asia). This time, there was an elimination, and the bawling mother-daughter duo of Marty and Hagan are the first ones out.

Top Chef

Christopher Campbell: It doesn’t get much whiter than a bunch of pasty chefs having to come up with rapper names (like “Dr. Funky Fresh”) and then cook something based on that name. Unless it’s in a Quickfire Challenge inspired by MC Hammer and most of the chefs wind up trying to impress him with their rhymes and replications of his signature moves. Hammer time was one of the worst times for the show in its history. The challenge didn’t mean a thing. It was just basically, “Make whatever you want, and this retro celebrity will tell us what he likes best.” No need for the embarrassing rap stuff. Marjorie’s punch-a-lot montage was kind of cute, though.

As for the Elimination Challenge of last night’s episode (which was actually titled “Hammer Time”), that was more my thing. This seems a bit late in the season for such a gimmick as picking a time and place in history and delivering representational cuisine, but I like any challenge where there’s more for the viewer than just watching delicious food being served up for the judges. I like cooking shows with some lessons in culinary facts, even if they’re only as well-researched as a bunch of chefs using a public library for a short time. I guess it’s about as educational as an episode of The Amazing Race. Well almost. Actually, parts may have made me dumber.

Yes, I’m referring to Jeremy and his San Francisco “Golden Rush” comment. Who picks 19th century San Francisco as a cuisine to have fun with anyway? Chowder with sourdough bread? So boring. Jeremy really should have gone home this week, and this coming from someone who’d been rooting for him a while. I see people calling Carl the new Philip, but it’s Jeremy with his drunk drumming in the middle of a Tiki bar and too-long-to-be-legit rap name (“Spicy J-Roc 305”) and clearly most terrible dish. Or wait, is it Isaac (“Toups Legit”) with his plates from nature idea? Nah, he’s still awesome.

And so is Amar with his deserved win. Even if his choice of Belle Epoque as a time and place for inspiration was like a film director making a movie about movies, which are almost always a hit with critics. Sure, the food also had to be great, but the subject itself already had subjective favor from the judges, particularly guest food snob (he’s great, but too much frowning) and Top Chef Master Jonathan Waxman. All that was missing was him displaying a single tear after eating the roasted squab, seared foie gras, sweetbreads, tourne vegetables and truffle sauce like Anton Ego eating Remy’s ratatouille in Ratatouille.


Christopher Campbell: Last night was a fine episode, nothing too hilarious and nothing too insightful. The focus was on the characters Claire and Doug, and if it wasn’t weak enough on its own, IFC followed the new episode, titled “Breaking Up” with a Claire and Doug-focused repeat, the brilliantly funny episode “Doug Becomes a Feminist” from exactly one year ago. This time they split up and each finds an immediate fling that seems perfect at first and then eventually seems like the worst thing ever. The back and forth structure worked very well and it was very relatable (I’ve definitely been in Doug’s scenario of realizing I’m hanging out with someone too far removed, generationally) and Zoe Kravitz was a good guest star. But I never laughed once. Again, it wasn’t a bad episode, just not a very memorable one.

What did you watch last night?

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