The X-Files: Hollywood A.D.

Case: Mulder and Scully have a Da Vinci Code-esque adventure in and around DC.

Destination: La La Land

Federman: "I like the way you guys work. No warrants, no permission, no research. You're like studio executives, with guns."

The X-Files has gone Hollywood in this seventh season stunner. Written and directed by David Duchovny, 'Hollywood A.D.' is about the making of a film, based on the FBI couple. In meta, mock, satirical fashion, 'Hollywood A.D.' serves up The X-Files to itself in sometimes humorous, sometimes melancholy, but always clever ways. Mulder and Scully must prognosticate their future as the show's fate, itself, was hanging in the balance. Duchovny's fears and anxiety about forging a career from underneath the shadow of Fox Mulder is the true undercurrent of this episode. Add to that the casting of his then wife, Téa Leoni to play Agent Scully in the movie and pal, Garry Shandling (RIP) to play him, as well as, a fan-serviced version of Walter Skinner and we have a unique layered hour of this show, through which we can glean both personal and universal points of view of Duchovny and Anderson, and the show at large.


On one hand, for a series with nearly seven seasons of episode formulas and quirks, one could almost write a parody in their sleep, but Duchovny doesn't fall into any kind of typical easy self-references. In fact, casting Garry Shandling to play him actually points to his much-talked about guest spot on The Garry Shandling Show, more than anything else. The Shandling casting also allows Duchovny to feature an oft-overlooked endearing quality of Mulder's, self-deprecation. With Wayne Federman, self-proclaimed Hollywood writer/producer and 'college buddy' of Walter Skinner, tagging along with the duo, we are treated to a nuanced editorializing of the FBI agents that manages to go even further than a genius Darin Morgan episode of yore. Of Scully Federman observes quietly, taking notes for his future screenplay -- She: Jodie Foster's foster child on a Payless budget. He's like a Jehovah's Witness meets Harrison Ford's Witness. Because much of the episode's tension derives itself from the what's real/what's fake/can't both be authentic though interplay, Duchovny creates a plot within the story where an anti-establishment-cum-forger named Micah Hoffman (so named for Abbie Hoffman and played by a quasi Jim Jarmusch type, actor Paul Lieber) sees the error of his ways when he becomes that which he looks to deceive. This serves to legitimize Hollywood, itself, and the subsequent storyline about the movie industry, beautifully. After all, Duchovny is making no small statement about acting and make-believe becoming a substantial part of his life as a person outside of the show.


As a fan, one can watch, gleefully, as this episode plays out with little moments of utter sweetness between our beloved FBI agents. (Amazingly, the bubble bath split camera is but one of several wonderful scenes!) In the opening of the episode, when Mulder and Scully are sitting in the audience of the movie theater watching the premiere of the movie based on them, their faces are perfect. They sit in awe (watching a scene where their characters are finally sharing a kiss no less) of this monumental event, at least in part, motivated by not only the work they do, but the extraordinary relationship they share. Scully is far more bemused throughout the events of the episode, the script plays more to her 'Humbug'/'Amazing Maleeni' side. Mulder tends to be more serious, but philosophically so, a side of him we've enjoyed in several of the aforementioned Darin Morgan stylings. In the third act, Scully comes over to his apartment and the two talk about Plan 9 From Outer Space as an allegory for their individual beliefs, as well as, the case they're working on. But more than the content of their conversation, there's a simpatico vibe present, an inherent capacity to comfort one another through such existential crises. And it's beautifully framed by Scully, flashing the bureau credit card and a coaxing smile in their last scene, and urging Mulder to go have some fun with her in LA for once! Watching them walk into the green screen horizon, in the end, one gets the sense that no matter what happens to this show, these two will go on to do memorable things.


Finally, because Hollywood juxtaposed with two earnest federal agents who investigate the paranormal for a living, ends up feeling essentially symbiotic, 'Hollywood A.D.' comes off (especially in repeated watchings, this one has aged well, for me) as a darling send-up/send-off to Mulder and Scully. Neither plot line is overwrought, though each could have easily veered into that territory. While fulfilling an experience of complexity and sufficiency, there are conceptually some of the series' loveliest themes, here, perceived by Duchovny, arguably a particular voice in the storytelling techniques of the show from the beginning. How we see ourselves, how others see us, and the bearing that has on our sense of Self unfolds in 'Hollywood A.D.' with touching results. But, the idea that we remain connected and committed to those around us whom we love and who love us as a means to hold our individualized perceptions in the most elegant way, is perhaps my favorite most well-intentioned message of Duchovny's offering.

Other Thoughts

* All of Wayne Federman's lines were hilarious.

* Skin man.

* The Lazarus Bowl

* Skinner is the only one to happily admit he's in the bubble bath at the time of their 3-way split screen phone call.

* Scully, in the background, running back and forth in heels to show Téa 'how it's done' is one of the funniest bits I have ever seen on this show. (All whilst Mulder is explaining to Shandling that he dresses 'left' in the foreground.)

* The final scene, the dead coming to life and dancing on the Hollywood set is a nice bookend to 'The Post-Modern Prometheus' in Season 5.

Quotes

Mulder: "That's actually just a hindrance/pain the neck." (in response to Federman's 'I'm a writer/producer.')

Scully: "Mulder, we should have a warrant."
Federman: "It's only the Constitution. No big deal."

Skinner: "Agent Scully, if I'm carrying Marilyn Monroe's purse, do you assume I've slept with JFK?"

Mulder: "I think this whole Richard Gere thing is going to Skinner's head."

Mulder: "This movie's so bad that it hypnotizes my conscious critical mind and frees up my right brain to make socio-poetic leaps." (David Duchovny will always remain one of my favorite over-intellectual coastal elites.)

Scully: "Wow. He's really gone Hollywood."

Director: "Go ahead, ruin my career." (...when a take gets ruined by an extra.)

Final Analysis: Duchovny is an academic at heart, a brilliant human being with a knack for words. His contributions to this show shape the series in a way all his own.

2 comments:

Dr. Johnny Fever said...

Because everyone loves this episode I really want to love it too... but I don't. I watch it and rewatch it, but still don't get it.

That said, I do appreciate the craftsmanship of the episode. I appreciate the quality (writing, acting, etc.) even if I don't "get it".

Mallena said...

You're also the one with the knack for words, Heather. Even though I have some issues with this episode, your review made me go "awww" several times in appreciation of the sweet parts in this one. I love M&S's reactions to that crazy movie and I never get tired of seeing them hold hands and act protective of one another. However, there is a lot of things that just make me cringe. David and Garry's interactions, dancing zombies...it's just over the top for me. This is an ep that I fast forward through a lot of, but there are some good parts to enjoy.