This is second on my list of Best Episodes Ever, and until the re-watch I'd practically forgotten why. This episode turned out to be the perfect example of why said re-watch is such a good idea.
The entire episode comprises only five or six scenes, each one filmed continuously. The sequences with Mulder on board the Queen Anne are quite dark, and so I didn't notice that they'd used this technique until they cut back to Scully at the FBI building, and even then I only realised when the camera followed her into the lift. I think perhaps this is as close as they've come to a "live" episode, and I dread to think how many takes it must have needed to get right. I am renewedly impressed with Gillian Anderson especially, though everyone else deserves credit for it, too. :)
I'm not entirely certain why they chose this particular episode to use the technique, except that in the case of Scully's first scene, it does create a sense of urgency and panic very effectively. I didn't feel that so much with Mulder's scenes, but I think that might be because there are so many incidental characters in them, whereas in Scully's it's mostly just her, Skinner, Kersch or the Lone Gunmen, as opposed to various Nazis and British soldiers and passengers.
I did enjoy the way various characters turned up in the 1939 timeline, and their roles were quite telling. Spender and Cancer Man were both Nazis, and Scully (of course) was one of the good guys, and a scientist to boot. Then we have Kersch, down in the boiler room keeping the ship on course yet also trying to rebel (I'm wondering if this will be more relevant as the series progresses; my memory of the last few seasons is quite fuzzy), and Skinner as the good Nazi, helping Mulder (and 'Scully') to escape.
There's also an interesting shot where they focus on the singer in the ship's ballroom and I'm sure she's meant to be familiar, but even now I can't figure out why. I'm thinking it's not relevant in the slightest and they put it there to confuse us, actually...
Of course, there's the kiss. Even though it's not really Scully and we can't see it properly because of the shadows (damn you, Chris Carter!), and she punches him afterwards, but it's still a defining moment. Mulder's logic is obviously perfectly sound, also, and I'm almost convinced Scully would do the same if their roles were reversed.
And then there's the ending, with Mulder's outright declaration of love and Scully's absolutely brilliant reaction of "Oh, brother" before walking off. There are so many wonderful elements to that small moment. The hospital room is a familiar place for our favourite shipper moments (it feels like the writers are almost poking fun at themselves with it), and her reaction is perfect. If Mulder is doped up on medication then he's also incredibly lucid, though give his Wizard of Oz-type ramblings ("You were there, too!"), I suppose Scully can be forgiven for thinking he's insane. I think, though, that her reaction is more that he chose such an inopportune moment to state what could easily have remained unspoken for much longer. It's not so much "I don't believe you" as "You total dork". ;)
Anyway. In short - fantastically shot and brilliant ending.
Next, that sci-fi staple, the body swap. Dreamland I and II
This one is chock full of prime comedy moments (the mirror dance sequence, for one) but also a healthy dose of angst. The character of Morris Fletcher is almost completely unlikeable from the start, even more so when he decides he wants Mulder's life. Which begs the questions as to WHY anyone would want Mulder's life, except in Morris's case it seems he wants to CHANGE Mulder's life, which is slightly different. Anyway.
I think a lot of viewers felt this episode was something of a cop-out, showing a distinct lack of bravery from the writers. If you're going to do a body swap, you should at least use your main characters. :P We saw the resultant hilarity in Farscape in "The Way We Weren't", after all. Perhaps at this point in the series, though, it wouldn't be such a good idea to body-swap our heroes; in the first couple of series, perhaps, but at this point it would probably do more damage than good. Not that it matters; there is plenty of decent fanfic out there dealing with it. :)
I'm a little dubious also that Scully takes so long to realise or notice that Mulder is not Mulder. She seems to have reverted back to her stubborn anti-belief again and it jars somewhat. She gets bonus points for figuring it out and reeling Morris in, though. ;)
The sequence between Mulder (as Morris, though thankfully we see them as themselves throughout, rather than each other) and Scully before the switch-back is quite poignant, all the more so because afterwards, nobody remembers anything. So for now, the admission of "I'd kiss you if you weren't so damn ugly" is lost to the ether.
Not that much more to say about it, really. I think I had more a few days ago, but it fell out of my brain.
The next episode is "Terms of Endearment", which is mostly unremarkable but gets bonus points for guest starring Bruce Campbell as the Devil. :D
Next, another favourite. Rain King
For starters, even though it's near the end, this episode has one of the Best Lines Ever. "I brought you a leg." Out of context it's just random, but made me laugh at the time nonetheless.
So. Irony a go-go in this one. I love the idea of Mulder and Scully handing out advice on love which they should SO OBVIOUSLY FOLLOW, being completely oblivious to the fact that they're basically describing their own relationship. Brilliant. I like how Mulder kind of ignores the fact that he kissed 1939 Scully on the ship only a few episodes ago when asked if they've ever kissed, but I imagine that would confuse things more than they are already.
The Gundersons are amusing, also. It's a vaguely disturbing image of the future, but at least they're happy? ;)
The heart-shaped hailstones are awesome, incidentally.
This is really an episode which thrives on comic timing: the spontaneous rainstorm, the cow falling through Mulder's roof, Holman thwarting their attempts to get home, and Scully's stupefied silence on the phone when Mulder explains why Holman wants him to stay. "The blind leading the blind" indeed. :) There are also those silly little moments like everyone assuming they're married and the effect (if not the actual happening) of them swaying with the music at the reunion. It's just a lovely feel-good episode, with enough self-awareness to set it apart from the rest.
When paired with the next episode, the self-aware touches seem somewhat more ironic...
How the Ghosts Stole Christmas
This is another which has also been a firm favourite, though the re-watch did absolutely nothing to stem the urge to put Mulder and Scully into Most Haunted. Scully vs. Yvette would be frelling hilarious. But I digress. :)
This episode relies almost solely on the two leads and the two guest stars, Ed Asner (Maurice) and Lily Tomlin (Lyda), both of whom are totally brilliant as their respective ghosts. I'll have to list my favourite bits because there are simply too much.
- Mulder spinning the Scary Tale in the car to Scully. I like his repetition of "It was a time of dark, dark despair" and Scully's unimpressed "You said that", but more than that I really like this bit:
His name was Maurice. He was a... a brooding but heroic young man beloved of Lyda, a sublime beauty with a light that seemed to follow her wherever she went.
It just reminds me of them. Which I imagine is the point, but still. *loves*
- Scully admitting she's afraid, "but it's an irrational fear", which is sort of adorable and hilarious in equal measure.
- Mulder doing the torch-under-the-chin thing and making her scream. Aw.
- The Swircular Library of Doom.
- Scully and Lyda's scream-off. Brilliant. Admittedly, a jumpy Scully is probably quite trigger-happy, but it's still funny.
- Some of the best lines in any episode ever. Too many to list, but here are some of my favourites:
Scully: What have you done with him?
Maurice: Saved him from his own mad devices, at least for now.
(Dunno why, that just cracked me up.)
Lyda: I don't show my hole to just anyone.
Mulder: Why are showing it to me?!
(I should clarify the 'hole' is a gunshot blast through her stomach. Just in case you were wondering... :P)
This episode is in a similar vein to "Rain King", except this time its outsiders who try to point them in the right direction. At the very least, the experience seems to make them more aware of their own flaws in relation to each other (Scully always wanting to prove Mulder wrong, and Mulder being generally narcisstic and self-obsessed... yup), and the episode ends with them spending Chrismas morning together, at 3.00am. We never find out what they've bought each other (I think it would ruin it if we did) and the final shot is absolutely gorgeous.
It achieved exactly what I imagine the writers wanted, also, which is to make you feel very festive and snuggly inside, despite it not being Christmas. It also reminded me quite profoundly of my first viewing of the episode, in one of those remembering-exactly-where-you-were moments, so I was also wallowing in fuzzy nostalgia, too. :)
Aside from all of those, there's also been "Tithonus" and "SR-819", also quite enjoyable. Next up is the two parter, "Two Fathers" / "One Son", and then "Arcadia" - watch this space. :D
I should warn you in advance, however, that when I finally get to the very last episode, my reactions are not likely to be coherent. I caught a clip of the final scene of "The Truth" in a fanvid on YouTube on Friday night, and literally burst into tears. I'd forgotten how perfect the ending was, at least in terms of the MSR, so yeah. Be warned. :)