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well, that sucked.
I forgot how bad Season Six was in places. I'm rewatching during workouts and I just stumbled through "Ghosts Who Stole Christmas","Terms of Endearment", and "Rain King."  The latter has its moments, and I think it may the absolute pinnacle of Pointlessly!Bitchy!Scully (my wife suggests asking your doctor about Aleve, Dana.)

But altogether, it's a real trifecta of shit, redeemed pretty much only by the gift scene in "Ghosts" (and Lily Tomlin and Ed Asner.)

Sure, there are worse episodes (any episode with a Spanish name is worse--think about it), but these three stinkers in a row are a real low point.

The only thing that bugged me about the writing on the show was that they tended to make one-shot characters into these really disposable cartoons; there's little or no sympathy at all in the portrayal of anyone besides Mulder and Scully. You never get the sense that there's any backstory, that Mulder and Scully have stepped into a place and a set of lives that existed before them and will exist after they've left. I think it's really on display here, especially in the nasty cornpone sentimentality of "Rain King." If I was from Kansas (and I'm not far, actually) I'd be pissed about that one.

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I'll give you the cow.

I'm a huge fan of S7, right up until, oh, the last three minutes of "Reqiuem". Okay, not so much "Fight Club," either.

I think S6 in a lot of ways was an early swing at what they did so well in S7-- the episodes that had some whimsy and wonder and much more humanity, and where the narratives are a little more complex. In S6 it's like they're groping for it, which is where the broad brush comes in-- "shit, funny, what's funny? Oh, yeah, stereotypes are funny. Wait, we need to have a really heavy-handed relationship reference here." The reason this worked better in S7 is that the stories were a bit more nuanced, and I think they relied more on letting DD and GA act.

I remember *loving* "Drive" on first viewing because the tone change worked; it clearly wasn't in Vancouver, it brought back some of the big-screen excitement of the movie in a way, too.

The cow, yes, a really funny moment. DD's face at that point is priceless.

I do think the gift exchange was a tack-on, but I also think or something like it had to happen somewhere. We'd had a whole bunch of points in recent episodes, and ones to follow, where other characters tell Mulder and Scully about their relationship, but we hadn't had a purely Mulder and Scully scene that didn't involve Scully being a grumpy beyotch or Mulder teasing her for ages except for that one rather wrenching headlight-lit bit in "Dreamland II." I think it was necessary to establish that yes, there is some sort of relationship there--and in retrospect, bringing in the arcs of S7 and S8, maybe we're not actually seeing all of it either.

The thing that gets me about "Ghosts" is that the self-referentiality is just so goofily done, the cute bits of the premise wear off after the first act, and the acting is all way above it. The Asner/Duchovny scene is hilarious in isolation on the acting alone, but in with the rest of these heavy-handed episodes it's just more whacking the relationship button with a hammer. Scully utterly losing it, madly waving her sidearm around, is neatly in character in this context where it wouldn't be in a "serious" episode.

I'd say that "Drive" may sneak in at #10 on my favourite episodes list, but besides that S6 goes unrepresented. ("The Unnatural" is sort of in a class of its own.)

Re: I'll give you the cow.

I think "Drive" is excellent, I can definitely agree there. (To say I was thrilled to hear that Gilligan and Cranston would be working together again when Breaking Bad was announced, well... that would be an understatement.)

I do feel that S7 pulls off the lighter tone much better than S6, yes. For the reasons you've stated here, and probably more. I think, ultimately, we can look to "The Beginning" for reasons why: that episode shows just how afraid the writers were of what they were to do next, after the milestone of a feature film. There was backpedaling, aggravating character tweaking, and I think from that point on, they were hoping to bring in more of that "new" audience with the lighter tone. It was obviously experimental, and it was pretty hit-and-miss, I think.

I think I might have to put "Drive" pretty high up on my list, too (though I have a hell of a time pinning anything down beyond my Top 3). The Unnatural is one of those fixed ones, though.

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