What modern TV doesn’t allow for anymore is the chance for a show to grow into its own. Either you’re a hit right out of the gate or you’re canceled. Series no longer have the luxury of discovering themselves as they go and this is a shame. It used to be that you could count on any Season 1 to be rather rough, but you knew whether or not it was going to be a good show based on the gems you found hidden in the briars. “Beyond the Sea” is one of those gems. This is the first teaser that features one of our stars, so you already know this is set up to be a special episode. In fact, it’s Masterpiece Theater care of Messrs. Morgan and Wong.
I think between this episode and “Fire” (1×11) we can officially say that Mulder and Scully are friends, buddies even. Of course, this is a fairly recent development in their relationship and there are splendid moments of awkwardness sprinkled throughout this episode that let you know Mulder and Scully are still working on this newfound intimacy. Mulder calls Scully “Dana” three times and three times I get a cold chill. Ironically, what would be a sign of closeness between two normal people sounds like misplaced formality between Mulder and Scully. Scully agrees with me, but her initial sardonic dismissal of Mulder’s attempt at overt friendship doesn’t deter him from trying.
Mulder is the instigator (isn’t he always?). Scully doesn’t turn to Mulder for emotional support so much as he sticks his foot in the door and refuses to move. Scully, for better and for worse, is more closed off than Mulder. He’s the one in touch with his instincts, who obeys his emotions, and he does so here regardless of whether or not Scully reciprocates them. She does reciprocate them, of course, she just takes a little longer to become comfortable with her own feelings.
Would it be sacrilegious if I say that the chemistry wasn’t quite there in every scene? As I said, Mulder and Scully don’t look like they’re used to this (and neither to David and Gillian for that matter). I might be the only X-Phile in the world that finds Mulder’s ministrations somewhat awkward. However, I don’t think their being awkward is wrong. In fact, it makes sense. This is new territory in their relationship.
It’s not that their scenes together don’t feel real, it’s that they don’t feel natural, not until that wonderful, gorgeous scene it Scully’s motel room: The Great Sit Down. Was there a moment, any moment throughout the series that you could pin down as the point where Agents Mulder and Scully became Mulder and Scully? You could argue that there was or wasn’t. But if you were to argue that there was a moment, a place where they became more than partners, more than just buddies in a police procedural, it’s safe to say that this one gesture would make the short list for consideration. Not only are they completely in sync, there’s nothing strange, unnatural, invasive, or dare I say, even sexual in this moment. It’s as if they’re in their own Mulder/Scully universe.
Why does the personal space bubble exist? Because I am me and you are you and the twain should never completely meet. Why don’t Mulder and Scully practice the personal space bubble with each other? They don’t exist separately. Oh, sure, they’re different people, but they’re kind of like spiritually conjoined twins; separate yet always together. At Scully’s saddest and most vulnerable, having Mulder glued to her side is as natural as it gets.
But enough about Mulder and Scully. Brad Dourif gives a superb performance as Boggs without which the entire episode would have fallen apart. The perfectly timed tears… I almost want to salute in admiration. Sheila Larken shows up in her first guest spot as Margaret Scully. Here she’s so wrapped up in her own grief that she barely acknowledges her daughter’s. That’s why it feels so right.
Then there’s the biggest guest star of all: Bobby Darin. Who could forget him? The song Beyond the Sea is the perfect backdrop to the emotions of this episode. My own father played it often when I was a kid as it’s still one of his favorites. I wonder if everyone’s dad is a Bobby Darin fan? Maybe that’s why Scully feels like the every-daughter in this episode; almost every child will face a crossroad where they have to disappoint the parents they love to do what they feel is right for them. Scully’s meticulous science may be hard for many to understand, but at last, in this, she becomes relatable.
And the Verdict is…
This episode was so successful that it can serve as the cornerstone of Scully’s psychology for the rest of the series. If the writers knew what the show would become, would they have killed Scully’s father off so soon? It would probably still be the wisest decision. For one thing, watching Scully lose her father allows us to see a depth of emotion in her that was only hinted at in the “Pilot “(1×79). Vulnerable Scully now makes an encore appearance and she’s a welcome departure from the slightly cocky Scully we’ve been exposed to thus far. Not only that, but when Scully’s penchant for following older, wiser men is revealed later on in the series we can better understand why she so willingly followed Mulder into madness. And that element of her personality only makes sense in light of her relationship with her father.
Scully believes… and then she takes it back. Why make it easy? But now we know that Scully is capable of believing even when Mulder doesn’t, as long as she has a personal stake in the matter, that is.
More than that, now we know that The X-Files is capable of being a great, great show.
It Doesn’t Make Sense:
Here’s an angle to Scully’s history that I’ve never, ever understood: Why are her parents so disappointed with her becoming an FBI agent? Is it less prestigious working for the FBI? If anything, they could say their daughter was a doctor and an investigator. Talk about bragging rights. It just feels like a stretch to think that this would be a point of contention within the family.
How did Mulder’s blood splatter so high up on the white cross? He’s not 8 feet tall.
Here and There:
His name is Luther Lee Boggs. That’s our first clue. Only southern boys or serial killers go by all three names: John Wayne Gacy, Lee Harvey Oswald, Henry Lee Lucas, etc.
Boggs channels a Mafioso? Here it works. In “The Field Where I Died” (4×5)? Not so much.
Boggs’ red jumpsuit is a great touch. Hot orange would have done horrible things for his complexion.
Not until about my tenth time watching this episode did I catch the fact that in the face of Scully’s obvious lie, Mulder intuitively knows that Scully has experienced an “extreme possibility” in regards to her father. Scully gives him a look of mild surprise when she realizes he’s guessed. In tune much?
Scully: Did Boggs confess?
Mulder: No, no, it was five hours of Boggs’ channelling. After three hours I asked him to summon up the soul of Jimi Hendrix, and requested All Along The Watchtower. You know, the guy’s been dead twenty years, but he still hasn’t lost his edge.
Mulder: Dana, after all you’ve seen, after all the evidence, why can’t you believe?
Scully: I’m afraid. I’m afraid to believe.
Mulder: You couldn’t face that fear? Even if it meant never knowing what your father wanted to tell you?
Scully: But I do know.
Scully: He was my father.